HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — A Canadian court has ruled that an educational society in Nova Scotia acted improperly when it denied accreditation to a Christian law school because of its biblical beliefs on human sexuality.
“I have concluded that the NSBS did not have the authority to do what it did,” Justice Jamie Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court wrote on Wednesday. “I have also concluded that even if it did have that authority it did not exercise it in a way that reasonably considered the concerns for religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”
Trinity Western University, which is set to open its law school next year, had filed suit in October of last year after the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society after it refused to recognize graduates as being attorneys until the Christian institution changed its policy on sexuality.
“According to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation,” the university policy reads. “Honoring and upholding these principles, members of the TWU community strive for purity of thought and relationship, respectful modesty, personal responsibility for actions taken, and avoidance of contexts where temptation to compromise would be particularly strong.”
The Novia Scotia Supreme Court was then to decide whether the Society had the authority to deny accreditation to the university.
“It is also about whether, even if it had that authority, the NSBS reasonably considered the implications of its actions on the religious freedoms of TWU and its students in a way that was consistent with Canadian legal values of inclusiveness, pluralism and the respect for the rule of law,” Campbell explained.
The court found that the Society did not properly protect the religious freedom of the school as required by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Canadians should be free to live and work according to their deeply held convictions. The same applies to faith-based educational institutions, which should be free to operate according to the faith they teach and espouse,” said Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson, LLP, one of the attorneys who represented Trinity Western University in court.
“The court was right to affirm the right of this law school and its students to adhere to their sincerely held religious beliefs, which the Charter fully protects,” he added.
University spokesperson Guy Saffold said that he was likewise pleased with the outcome of the ruling.
“We believe this is an exceptionally important decision from Justice Campbell,” he wrote in a statement. “It affirms that protection of religious freedom is and must continue to be central value in Canada’s pluralist society.”
“This decision is important not only to TWU’s effort to launch a School of Law,” Saffold continued, “but also, we believe it sets an extremely valuable precedent in protection of freedoms for all religious communities and people of faith in Canada.”