A Christian university with a policy that forbids same-sex intimacy has had its controversial bid to open a law school approved by the Law Society of British Columbia.
On April 11, the Law Society of B.C. voted 20 to 6 in favour of accrediting graduates from TWU's proposed law school.
Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., will begin accepting 60 students in 2015 and open the law school in September 2016.
Opposition to the law school proposal, submitted to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in June 2012, arose across the country from law schools, advocates, and more.
At issue is TWU's community covenant, in which students must agree to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman", which would include homosexual sex as well as premarital or extramarital heterosexual sex, or else face discipline, expulsion, or refusal of admission.
Although same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005, the university excludes it from the terms of its covenant.
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada granted the school preliminary approval on December 16.
A group of five lawyers, with Vancouver Park Board commissioner Trevor Loke (who is an openly gay Christian who plans to attend law school) as plantiff, are launching a court challenge against the B.C. government for approving the law school. The lawyers will argue that the approval by the province's Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, on December 18 violates Charter rights regarding discrimination against sexual orientation.
Virk said his decision was based on a review by the Degree Quality Assessment Board, a provincial ministry of education agency, and the approval by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. He stated that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is outside the purview of his Ministry.
"I find the Minister's endorsement of TWU's law school humiliating," Loke stated in a news release.
He argues that the Minister's mandate requires him to improve equal access for British Columbian law students.
In the 1990s, the British Columbia College of Teachers barred the school from granting teaching degrees due to its homophobic policies. In 2001, TWU won a Supreme Court of Canada case which overturned the college's decision.
The university claims it will be the first Christian university in Canada to open a law school.