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Catholic Vancouver June 19, 2018

Lawyers, politicians, Christians disappointed with TWU ruling

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Father Deacon Andrew Bennett speaking to media outside the Supreme Court of Canada after the ruling came down June 15. (CCN photo)

A diverse group of Canadians have voiced their disapproval of the June 15 Supreme Court ruling against Trinity Western University. Here is a collection of what some had to say:

Father Deacon Andrew Bennett
Director of Cardus Institute and former Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom

(speaking to media outside the Supreme Court) From the perspective of religious freedom, I am very disappointed in the court’s ruling. I think what the court has done is effectively relegated freedom of conscience and religion out of Section 2 of the Charter and unfortunately they have advanced an imagined conflict between sexual identity and religious identity. I think if we do that, it makes it very difficult to build a common life together as Canadians.

This is not a question of religious identity. It’s not a question of sexual identity. It’s a question of fundamental freedoms and also about the freedom to live your faith publicly. A public faith is at the heart of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience.

Association for Reformed Political Action
Intervener in the case

(via press release) ARPA sees several major problems with the majority judgment. First, (the judgment) justifies the law societies’ rejection of TWU not based on an intelligible legal rule or standard, but based on the undefined, amorphous concepts of “Charter values” and “public interest.”

“The majority says the law societies’ fear of negative public perception was a legitimate reason to reject TWU,” says (ARPA’s director of Law and Policy) Schutten. “But there are also negative public perceptions resulting from the rejection of TWU. In any case, neither the law societies nor the courts are in the business of public opinion polling, nor should they make decisions based on prevailing public opinion on sensitive issues.”

Bob Kuhn
TWU president

(via email) Until now, Canada has always encouraged and supported the rich, cultural mosaic created by those who call Canada home. Historically, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, together with the human rights legislation in each province, has been reflective and protective of Canada’s diversity of views, cultures, and belief systems. Sadly, the Supreme Court has decided that this protection does not extend to a law school at Trinity Western University.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

(via press release) The decision by the Court effectively means that provincial law societies can discriminate against lawyers on the basis of their religious affiliation and moral values. Furthermore, any organization is now at risk for its views on equality, diversity, and inclusion if it depends on a regulatory body with a mandate to act in the "public interest."

Catholic Civil Rights League
Intervener in the case

(via press release) The Supreme Court has allowed the non-accreditation of a single proposed Christian law school, which proposed to add 60 new spaces for potential law students to gain entry to the profession, on the basis that it imposed an “inequitable barrier on entry to the profession,” without explaining how any existing available law school spaces were affected.

Today’s ruling will provide a launching pad for future attacks on the continued access of religious organizations to public benefits ... In brief, we are seeing the continued diminished acceptance of religious viewpoints in the public square, in favour of a civic totalism, where dissenting viewpoints are pushed to the margins.

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller is disappointed with the ruling. (BCC file photo)

David Anderson
Conservative Shadow Minister for Human Rights and Religious Freedoms

(via Facebook) We are disappointed in the decision. We agree with (dissenting) Justices Brown and Cote when they stated: “The decision not to approve TWU’s proposed law faculty is profound interference with religious freedom.”

Derek Ross
Executive director of Christian Legal Fellowship (an intervenor in the case)

(via blog) While many have tried to frame this case as a clash between religious freedom and equality rights, it needn’t be so. Charter rights are not competitors in a zero-sum game. They can be fully exercised in co-existence, as the Supreme Court recognized in the first TWU case in 2001. Since that time, both equality rights and religious freedom have enjoyed expanding interpretations: in tandem, not competition.

True diversity makes room for religious communities like TWU. True diversity does not try to obliterate disagreement or force minorities to conform to state-approved beliefs.

Iain Benson
Constitutional lawyer

(speaking to Canadian Catholic News) A terrible, terrible decision.... It has the potential to open up whole swathes of Canadian culture to scrutiny under so-called charter values.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

(via press release) The Court’s willingness to disregard the Charter of Rights and Freedoms means the threat of state influence expanding beyond its authority is increasing. The Court is allowing governments and government-mandated regulators to decide which beliefs and values are favoured in society, narrowing pluralism and freedom of conscience, beliefs, and thought in a serious way.

Janet Epp Buckingham speaking to media outside the Supreme Court.  (CCN photo)

Janet Epp Buckingham
TWU professor of political studies and history

(speaking to media outside the Supreme Court) This is a loss for diversity in Canada.

 We will not be starting a law school in the near future, and we will have to consider our options to determine how we’re going to go forward with this ... Our other professional programs have been operating quite successfully for many years and so at the moment we’re not anticipating any challenges to those. The graduates from those programs are well-respected in the community.

Certainly the balance between religious freedom and equality rights for LGBT persons has been a central focus of this case. Lawyers will be writing about this for years to come. But at the moment, it does look like religious freedom can be restricted by equality rights.

Mark Warawa
Langley MP

(via Twitter) I am surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision in these two cases ... I worry that these decisions will erode our right to believe and express those beliefs in Canada.

Ray Pennings
Executive vice president of Cardus

(via National Post opinion article) The court went so far as to invalidate TWU’s community covenant. Curiously, it somehow found that this foundational statement of Christian faith “forces” LGBTQ students “to deny a crucial component of their identity in the most private and personal for three years in order to receive a legal education.”

It does nothing of the sort, of course. No one is “forced” to go to any law school in the country, much less at an evangelical university in the bucolic seclusion of rural British Columbia.