New Brunswick lawyers approve Christian law school

Provincial law societies divided over school that would prohibit homosexuality

Trinity Western UniversityAfter being rejected by law societies in Nova Scotia and Ontario, the plan for a religious law school set to open at Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia in 2016 got a boost last week when the New Brunswick Law Society voted 14 to five in favour of accreditation. That means graduates would be allowed to practise in that province, in addition to Saskatchewan and Alberta, and perhaps in B.C., Manitoba and Newfoundland.

TWU, a Christian school in suburban Vancouver, has been accused of anti-gay discrimination because it asks all students to sign a covenant promising to uphold Biblical values, including a prohibition on sex outside heterosexual marriage. TWU’s opinion is that not offering accreditation is tantamount to discrimination on the basis of religion.

In a statement released on Friday, New Brunswick Law Society president John Malone wrote that the governing council “always will recognize both religious freedoms and the right to sexual orientation without discrimination. No matter which law school they graduate from, all articled students complete Law Society training and evaluation. This includes the core aspects of professional responsibility, including non-discrimination.” He added that the council gave consideration to the preliminary approval of the school from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) and the province of British Columbia.

Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, president of the FLSC, wrote in December that while the federation respected the concerns about the covenant, “We also recognize the obligation to balance equality rights and freedom of religion.” However, she also wrote that adding a “non-discrimination provision” to her group’s national requirements for law schools “should be explored.” It’s unclear whether such a provision would tip the scales.

After a hearing in April, the governing council of the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society voted 10 to nine to accredit TWU, only if it dropped its covenant forbidding sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage.

The governing body of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which is the self-regulating lawyer group in Ontario, voted in April against accreditation. The tally was 28 against, 21 in favour and one abstention.

The Law Society of Manitoba recently decided that it would “not to engage in a discussion about a local approval process at this time,” noting that the FLSC might review national requirements. The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador made a similar statement.

Although the B.C. Law Society originally approved TWU’s school, a petition prompted a vote earlier this month among its 13,000 members. Of the 4,178 who cast ballots, 77 per cent favoured a resolution directing the board of governors, known as “benchers,” to deny accreditation. The vote is not, binding, however.




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New Brunswick lawyers approve Christian law school

  1. Belt loops…trying to hold it together.

  2. A good decision on this issue, for a change.

    A lot has been made of the covenant as discriminatory… and it is, but only for married gays. All unmarried students are subject to the same restrictions.

    Further, the absolute number of seats available at law schools will increase. So while there are some who may not be able to get a law degree at TWU, no one is being barred from pursuing a law degree, and the overall number of opportunities – for everyone – has increased.

    So, as much as anyone (myself included) may disapprove of the covenant, and consider it discriminatory, any real-world effects on gays seeking law degrees would be, at best, negligible.

    Conversely, refusing to admit TWU law school graduates on the basis of anything other than proof that the school is failing to meet its academic obligations IS discrimination on the basis of religion. Two wrongs don’t make a right – and this wrong is completely disproportionate in that (1) far more people will be directly impacted and (2) the students are being punished for the religious beliefs espoused by the institution they attended, without consideration of their own beliefs. (What if they went there solely because of scholarships or other financial advantages not available at any other institution?)

    The Law Societies refusing to admit TWU’s graduates simply because of the school’s covenant, without regard to the individual’s qualifications or the academic standards of the school, are assuming guilt by association and declaring them guilty without benefit of a hearing – both of which go against the very principles these societies are required to uphold.

    Politically correct bigotry is still every bit as bigoted as that displayed by TWU – in fact, to my eyes, even more so, given the amount of real-world effects their actions will have.

    So I’m glad NB is showing more common sense and is more rigidly applying the principles they are supposed to uphold than are the LSUC and NSLS.

    • I’m glad to hear that I’ll have your support for my proposed school charter, which will only discriminate against married interracial couples, while increasing overall number of opportunities for everyone.
      As the restriction on married sexually-active students will be limited to black men married to white women, any real-world effects on interracial couples seeking degrees would be, at best, negligible.
      Thank you for standing firm against the politically-correct bigots that would seek to restrict my religious freedom.

      • Read it again Lenny. I don’t support it; however, there are realities involved – one of them being that the response from the Law Societies is overkill. They are engaging in exactly the same kind of discrimination – but on a far wider scale. It’s like carpet-bombing an entire city because a small group of extremists living there set off an IED. That’s the point I’m trying to make – the response from certain law societies is way too excessive.

        Everyone is dumping on TWU and applauding the actions of the law societies that are saying they won’t admit its grads to the bar. That is the height of hypocrisy. But it is a symptom of an increasing intolerance for religion generally and Christianity in particular within our society. Religious beliefs are Charter-protected; law societies are supposed to uphold the Charter.

        TWU is wrong. The LSUC and NSLS are wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right.

        • I understood you perfectly.
          You may “disapprove” of a charter which excluded sexually-active interracial couples, but you would support the right of that school to exclude black men who are having sexual intercourse with their white wives.

          • As a religious institution TWU has a Charter-protected right – like it or not. They went through the same thing when they opened their teachers college and their opponents lost at the SCC. Frankly, I’d be a lot more worried about teachers from TWU than lawyers, as you can pick your lawyer but kids don’t usually get a choice of teachers – but I know of no proof that their teacher graduates are any worse or any more biased than teachers from other colleges.

            The Law Societies, on the other hand, are charged with upholding Canada’s laws. The actual, real-world impact of TWU’s position will be negligible. The impact of the Law Societies that refuse to accept TWU’s graduates is that whole swaths of law school graduates will be told they can’t practice in certain provinces NOT because they don’t have the academic qualifications, but because of possible religious beliefs they MAY hold, based on who they associated with.

            And you’re OK with that? To my mind, that’s the scarier of the two sides. We’ve seen that slippery slope before.

            I guess next, Christians will have to start wearing crosses on their sleeves so non-Christians can easily identify them. Or put them on businesses they own.

            Then will come the “summer camps”…

            See, Lenny – it swings both ways.Bigotry is bigotry. The difference is, students who don’t like TWU’s policies have alternatives. TWU graduates seeking to practice law in Ontario or NS, on the other hand, will be completely shut out – they will either have to choose a different profession, or a different province.

            That bodies whose purpose it is to uphold the rule of law can make arbitrary decisions on admission to the bar that is based solely on something OTHER than professional qualifications – to in effect throw out the rule of law, and assume guilt without any hearing – is far more egregious a breach of civil liberties than that of TWU’s. You can well imagine the uproar that would result if Jewish or Muslim law school graduates were refused admission to the bar because the Society didn’t like the temple or mosque they attended. How is this different?

            Oh, right – because they are Christian. Christians are the new scapegoats for all the world’s evils and so they should expect this.

            I’ve long been a defender of gay rights, Lenny. I’m also, however, a defender of religious freedoms, and of free speech. The actions of the LSUC and NSLS are a far more egregious breach of the latter two than TWU’s is of the first. So while I’m not in favour of TWU’s charter, I’d pick their side over that of the Law Societies’ ban, every time.

          • I have no idea why it took you so many words to say that you agree with the premise of my comment.

          • I said no such thing, and you know it. Come back when you want to have an intelligent discussion.

          • Ah. I took you lack of response to the substance of my comment to be acquiescence.
            Apparently it was evasion.

        • I didn’t think it worthy of addressing directly, but since you insist:

          I just celebrated two years with a wonderful woman. I’m white; she is black – and has a disability. She is also completing her university degree after having left post-secondary training a couple of decades ago.

          We have discussed this, and concur: the approach she or I would take are the same. We would not go to TWU or your fictional institution. We would not fund our children if they chose to go there. We do not approve of the TWU – or your – charter. We find them repugnant. (If you were to ask a different question – whether the BC government should have approved the school in the first place – our answer would be No.)

          BUT – we do NOT condone barring graduates of such institutions from being able to pursue their chosen field of study. That’s akin to jailing children for the crimes of their parents.

          The actions taken by the two law societies (so far) to refuse to admit TWU’s graduates to the bar is wholly disproportionate to the situation, and punishes the wrong individuals. It is likely illegal (as the SCC has already upheld TWU’s charter with regard to it’s teacher’s college as being protected under the religious freedoms section of the Charter) and most certainly breaches ethical considerations the societies are supposed to uphold (such as presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing.

          I’m also very concerned that anyone would consider it OK to ban a person from practicing in a profession because of religious affiliation and the SUSPICION they may hold certain beliefs. It goes against the very concept of freedom of association. It leans perilously in the kind of behaviour found in various repressive regimes towards certain religions – and smacks of the early restrictions Jews faced in Nazi Germany.

          So, as I’ve stated before: I don’t approve of TWU’s covenant, your fictional one – OR the stance taken by LSUC and NSLS. But of the two positions, given the real-world impact of each in terms of people being able to enter the legal profession, the one taken by the two Law Societies is by far the more odious.

          • “That’s akin to jailing children for the crimes of their parents.”

            Oh, totally. Except for that whole part where TWU students knowingly choose to enroll in an unaccredited program.
            And yes, just like the Nazis, every bar in the country accepts lawyers without regard to religion, race, sexual orientation, or belief; even Christians who choose to go to an accredited school.
            Regardless, while you’ll continue worrying about Christians being sent to death camps in Moose Jaw, I’ll continue opposing schools ability, not only to deny gay, black, or other minorities entrance, but to demand everyone else recognize their programs, though I risk precipitating a holocaust.

          • Started to write another serious reply, then decided you aren’t worth the effort. Anyone who thinks mistreatment of a group is justified by that group’s mere association with others who hold certain views just because you don’t like those views isn’t truly interested in social justice or equality.

            I’m guessing you also think the CPC is right to support warrantless searches, spying on Canadians, and internet censorship.

          • Just to clarify, would this “mistreated group” you’re referring to be students who choose to enroll in an unaccredited to program?

          • When you say “unaccredited”, you mean how the LSUC and NSBC ignored the usual accreditation measures of whether or not the school meets academic standards and decided, contrary to the FLSC, to breach the Charter rights of the students? Then yes.

            So just to clarify, while I oppose bigotry in general – being opposed to both TWU’s covenant and the bigotry shown by the LSUC and NSBC in response – you are OK with bigotry as long as it matches your beliefs?

          • That’s a neat rhetorical trick: Not tolerating intolerance is intolerant!
            But no, I believe those students should be free to study at any school in the country. And despite their similarity to Jews in Nazi Germany, incredibly, they are!

            I can’t imagine how the students Charter rights have been violated if they knowingly enroll in an unaccredited program and then don’t get…credentials.

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