Trinity Western University says law societies in Nova Scotia and Ontario sent a "chilling message" about religious freedom in Canada by restricting or rejecting accreditation for its proposed law school.
“We are very disappointed,” said president Bob Kuhn in a news release Friday. “These decisions impact all Canadians and people of faith everywhere. They send the chilling message that you cannot hold religious values and also participate fully in public society.”
At issue was Trinity Western's requirement that its 3,600 students sign a community covenant forbidding intimacy outside heterosexual marriage, which has been criticized as discriminatory against gays and lesbians.
'We feel the Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions are legally incorrect.' - Bob Kuhn, Trinity Western University president
Nova Scotia's bar society voted Friday to conditionally approve the law school from the Christian liberal arts institution, which plans to open the law school in 2016.
The conditional acceptance means the Nova Scotia's Barristers Society will only accept articling students from the school if it changes the covenant for law students or allows them to opt out.
The Law Society of Upper Canada has voted 28 to 21 against the accreditation of Trinity Western University's proposed new law school in B.C.
The vote means graduates from the B.C. university would not be able to practise in Ontario.
Considering legal action
Kuhn said the criteria Nova Scotia and Ontario used to consider Trinity were unclear, and the university is considering legal action.
“These provincial law societies are not the final authority. We feel the Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions are legally incorrect and it may now be necessary to re-litigate an issue that has already been decided in our favour by an 8 to 1 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001,” Kuhn said.
In that case, the British Columbia College of Teachers rejected Trinity's teaching degrees because students had to sign an agreement not to engage in homosexuality. The Supreme Court of Canada said the college was wrong to reject Trinity on the basis of discrimination.
The university will press ahead with plans for Canada's only faith-based law school, he said.
Trinity said its potential law graduates are cleared to article and practise in:
- Newfoundland and Labrador.