Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will intervene in Supreme Court hearing on Trinity Western University Law School

Friday, August 04 2017

TWU-Visual(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has been given leave by the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene in its hearing on whether lawyers educated by the Trinity Western University (TWU) Law School can be automatically barred by the two provincial law societies from practising law in British Columbia and Ontario. The two law societies claim TWU’s admission policies are discriminatory because its faculty, staff and students are required to sign a Community Covenant which includes their agreement to refrain “from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The CCCB was given leave by the Supreme Court to intervene in an order issued 31 July 2017, which modified an earlier order limiting the number of intervenors and keeping the hearing to one day. The now two-day hearing is tentatively scheduled for 30 November and 1 December 2017, when the Court will hear the appeal cases of Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant v. Law Society of Upper Canada, and Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant.

In its application for leave to intervene, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that the two related cases raise “questions so fundamental to religious freedom, one of Canada’s original freedoms, that this Court’s decision will have a profound impact on all faith based education, health care and social service facilities.” The CCCB is also concerned that efforts to rank human rights and “trump the right to religious freedom” will lead to a “hierarchy of rights” and “so undermine all Charter protections”.

The position and teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual conduct and same-sex marriage are similar to those expressed in the TWU Community Covenant which also includes commitment “to treat all persons with respect and dignity, and uphold their God-given worth from conception to death”. Likewise, the Catholic Church believes all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, have inherent value, worth and dignity as human persons created and loved by God. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358, teaches that persons with homosexual tendencies and inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and “Every sign of unjust discrimination … should be avoided.”

Representing the CCCB in the Supreme Court hearing will be its legal counsel Mr. William Sammon, of Barnes, Sammon, a law firm based in Ottawa. Since 1989, the CCCB has intervened in 11 other cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Other faith-related groups which have been given leave to intervene in the TWU hearing are the Canadian Council of Christian Charities; the Christian Legal Fellowship; the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada (jointly); the National Coalition of Catholic School Trustees and Lawyers’ Right Watch Canada; the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Faith and Freedom Alliance (also jointly); the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada; the United Church of Canada; and the World Sikh Organization of Canada.