Sunday, April 24, 2016
Following up on my previous posts (links below): Richard Moon (University of Windsor), The Accreditation of Trinity Western University's Law Program:
There is a debate at the moment about whether the law societies (which regulate the legal profession in the various provinces) must accredit a law program to be offered by Trinity Western University [TWU], a private Evangelical Christian college. The Law Society of Upper Canada [LSUC], along with the law societies of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, refused to the accredit the proposed program because of the school’s discriminatory admissions policy and in particular the covenant that all students are required to sign, in which they agree, among other things, not to engage in sex outside of marriage and sex with a same-sex partner. The issue in the TWU accreditation case is whether the covenant is simply an internal matter (a rule that applies simply to the internal operations of a voluntary religious association) or whether it impacts outsiders to the religious community or the public interest, more generally. As I understand it, the law societies are not claiming that the members of a religious community need to be protected from oppressive or discriminatory internal rules. There are two ways in which it may be argued that the TWU program (and the covenant in particular) will have an impact on the public interest.
The first argument is that a school that teaches its students that homosexuality is wrongful or immoral will not properly prepare lawyers for practice in the general community. Lawyers have duties to their clients, to the law, and to the institutions of justice. An accredited school must be willing to affirm basic equality rights. Second, admission to Canadian law schools is competitive. If its program is accredited, TWU will select students from a large number of applicants. Following graduation (as well as articling, and bar exams), TWU students will be eligible to practice law in a particular province. The accredited law schools are a gateway to the legal profession. The concern then is that TWU’s admissions policy will have a discriminatory impact on gays and lesbians who wish to enter the legal profession.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Deans Oppose Canada's First Christian Law School (Jan. 19, 2013)
- An Argument for a Christian Law School in Canada (Aug. 4, 2013)
- Canada Approves First Christian Law School Despite Opposition Over Student Code of Conduct Prohibiting Gay 'Sexual Intimacy' (Dec. 20, 2013)
- Legal Education, Religious and Secular: The Trinity Western University Controversy and Beyond (June 1, 2014)
- Legal Education, Gay Rights and Religion: Living by a Different Law (Nov. 9, 2014)
- Canada's First Christian Law School Sues Over Denial of Accreditation Due to Student Code of Conduct (Dec. 25, 2014)
- Will Christian Colleges (And Law Schools) Lose Their Tax Exemption After Obergefell? (July 5, 2015)
- Brunson: Churches And Religiously-Affiliated Schools That Oppose Same-Sex Marriage Will Not Lose Their Tax Exemption After Obergefell (July 12, 2016)