British Columbia's highest court upholds religious freedom

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Bible. Credit: Adam Dimmick via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

In a unanimous ruling, the highest court in British Columbia said that a Christian law school could not be denied accreditation merely for holding biblical beliefs on sexual morality.

“A society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society – one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal,” the high court said.

“This case demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism, can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”

In a unanimous Nov. 1 decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that the Law Society of British Columbia had wrongly denied accreditation to Trinity Western University’s proposed law school.

The law society had initially voted to accept the school's graduates, but then reversed its decision in late 2014, because the university holds beliefs about sexual ethics based on the Bible.

Religious freedom advocates applauded the decision.

“All Canadians benefit from this decision,” said Gerald Chipeur, a member of a Canadian law firm involved in the case. “It affirms the principle that everyone should be free to live and work according to their sincerely held beliefs and convictions.”

“Faith-based educational institutions should always be welcome in a diverse society and be free to operate according to the faith they teach and espouse,” he said.

“No one can be banned from their profession because they hold biblically based views, and no Christian institution of higher education can be sanctioned because it reflects essential tenets of the Christian religion,” added Benjamin Bull, chief counsel with the religious freedom group ADF International.


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