Supreme Court of Canada: Bishops Seek to Intervene in Trinity Western University Appeal

Friday, February 25 2000

Ottawa (CCCB) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene in the case of Christian-based Trinity Western University of British Columbia.

The Supreme Court is to hear an appeal by the British Columbia College of Teachers that claims the University’s policy on community standards discriminates against homosexuals. The College of Teachers has lost two lower court hearings and is appealing those decisions.

In 1996, the College, which has licencing powers, refused to approve the University’s education program citing the institution’s “community standards agreement” that students must sign that includes a ban on viewing pornography, pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual behaviour.

The CCCB motion to intervene says the decision of the College of Teachers “brings into question the boundaries that will be placed around fundamental freedoms that are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” such as the freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, and freedom of association.

The motion continues that the College’s decision is a “rejection of moral values based on religious belief; a direct attack on independent religious-based education; and an infringement of constitutionally protected rights of Trinity Western University and its students.”

The application to the Supreme Court considers that since the Catholic Church’s position on sexual conduct is similar to Trinity Western’s community standards agreement and therefore the “College’s decision is also an attack on Catholic education as its decision implies no graduate of a Catholic school where similar-based moral values are taught would be allowed to teach in a public school or work in the public sector unless they are re-educated in Canadian, secular, or Charter values – an implication contrary to constitutionally entrenched rights.”

The CCCB, if granted leave to intervene, would argue that “the kind of secular intolerance to religious beliefs demonstrated by the College’s decision would inevitably lead to unjustified attacks on the Catholic separate school system, including preferential hiring rights, particularly where the schools are publicly funded.”