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Religious Tolerance logo

Religiously motivated hate speech/discrimination in Canada

Part 3:
2017: The Supreme Court of Canada and the
Trinity Western (TWU) law school controversy

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2017-NOV-30: Joint hearings begin:

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC) are co-intervening in the two cases, which are called:

  • Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada, and

  • Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia Society.

TWU has a policy of discriminating against students and potential students who are either:

  • Unmarried and sexually active, or

  • Married and of the same sex.

Because of this policy, some provincial law societies across Canada have denied accreditation to the university. This prevents their graduates from practicing laws in those provinces.

The EFC and CHEC are conservative Christian agencies. Both appear to sincerely believe that "freedom of religion" should extend beyond freedom of religious belief, speech, assembly, proseltizing, etc. and also include the freedom of TWU to actively discriminate against students and potential students based on their marital status and sexual orientation.

By coincidence, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a similar case during 2017-DEC. It also is based on whether religious freedom extends to include the religious freedom to discriminate. A baker in Colorado refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple who were planning to marry. The refusal was based on the baker's conservative Christian religious beliefs.

The two agencies issued a joint statement saying that they will argue that:

  • "Religious beliefs are manifest in community, and from ancient times Christian communities have self-defined through statements of faith and codes of conduct.

  • Religious freedom includes the freedom for voluntary communities to determine their beliefs and practices.

  • In a free society government agencies should not force religious minorities that are acting lawfully to change their doctrine or the character of their communities.

  • Religious communities acting lawfully should not be denied government recognition or benefit.

  • Religious persons and communities do not surrender their Charter rights when they enter the public sphere."

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EFC President Bruce Clemenger said:

"Christian institutions are usually founded on statements of faith and codes of conduct. They are essential parts of their identity, the codes are consistent with Canadian law and should be respected in a free and democratic society.

"No one is disputing TWU’s ability to provide an excellent law school education and produce graduates who will serve Canadians well" Accreditation should not be withheld because some members of a law society do not like TWU’s covenant or their religious beliefs. Government agencies are to neither favor nor hinder religious beliefs. 1

CHEC Executive Director Justin Cooper said:

"Religious institutions make significant contributions to the public good in Canada and are an important part of the Canadian mosaic. An essential element of living in a free, diverse and plural society is the affirmation of religious freedom and the ability of religious communities to contribute meaningfully to the broader society. TWU has been doing this for decades." 1

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More information to come....

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Media Release: Evangelicals Argue For Religious Freedom At The Supreme Court," Wire Service, 2017-NOV-30, at:

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2017-NOV-30
Latest update: 2017-NOV-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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