A Canadian court dismissed an appeal by Nova Scotia Barristers' Society to ban a Christian university to get accreditation because of its stand on marriage and homosexuality, the school's website reported.
The Nova Scotia court of Appeal upheld Trinity Western University's position on accreditation, saying that denying university graduates accreditation based on its admission policy is outside the purview of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society's authority.
"The society acknowledges that the [Charter of Rights and Freedoms] does not apply to Trinity Western. It is a private university. The Supreme Court has held that the charter does not apply even to an autonomous public university," the Court of Appeal said in an opinion.
The Barristers' Society had refused to give the university accreditation over the school's opposition to homosexuality, on the grounds that it was in violation of Charter of Rights that relate to sexual orientation. But the school also requires its students to abstain from sex outside of marriage, which it defines as between one man and one woman.
The society had appealed a previous verdict made in January by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in the university's favor, and the latest decision confirmed the earlier ruling. The court has ordered the society to pay $35,000 in legal reimbursements to the university.
"Allowing the NSBS's decision to stand would have a chilling effect on the liberty of conscience and freedom of religion," wrote Justice Jamie Campbell, who had ruled last year that the Society must recognize the university graduates.
"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom upheld in the Charter," said Amy Robertson, a university spokesperson. "As Canadians, we are profoundly privileged to be part of diverse, pluralistic society, committed to respecting one another even when we disagree. Many countries don't enjoy this privilege. Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision, which amounts to a protection of our freedom and our identity."
"The Community Covenant is a core part of defining the TWU [Trinity Western University] community as distinctly Christian," she added. "We are not making a statement about LGBTQ people; we are making a statement about traditional Christian marriage, which is sacred to us. The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background. Loving one another without exception is one of the most important principles of the Christian faith."
Two other law school societies in Ontario and British Columbia have denied accreditation to the TWU graduates.
The school reported last month that it got a negative ruling from the Ontario court of Appeal. Though the court said that the university's religious rights were violated, but it still upheld a divisional court's decision to permit the Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario to continue to refuse accreditation to TWU graduates.
"The court correctly found an infringement of TWU's rights," Earl Phillips, the executive director of TWU's proposed School of Law, said after the Ontario verdict. "However, we are most disappointed that the court found the infringement to be justifiable. That finding is a serious limitation to freedom of conscience and religion under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
The school will appeal the Ontario ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Justice Campbell of Nova Scotia Supreme Court said that the secular society is redefining freedom in a way that obliterates true values of social liberty.
"For many people in a secular society religious freedom is worse than inconsequential. It actually gets in the way. It's the dead hand of the superstitious past reaching out to restrain more important secular values like equality from becoming real equality," he wrote.
"The discomforting truth is that religions with views that many Canadians find incomprehensible or offensive abound in a liberal and multicultural society. The law protects them and must carve out a place not only where they can exist but flourish."