Nova Scotia court sides with TWU over law school

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has sided with Trinity Western University which appealed the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society refusal to accredit its law school.

Justice Jamie Campbell concluded that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society did not have authority to act as it did and allowing the decision to stand would have a chilling effect on the liberty of conscience and freedom of religion.

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia issued its ruling in TWU v. NSBS Jan. 28.

Campbell found that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society did not have the authority to do what it did, and that even if it did have the authority it did not exercise it in a way that properly considered religious freedom and liberty of conscience.

“We believe this is an exceptionally important decision from Justice Campbell,” said TWU spokesperson Guy Saffold. “It affirms that protection of religious freedom is and must continue to be central value in Canada’s pluralist society.”

The decision is detailed in a 139-page court document <http://www.courts.ns.ca/Decisions_Of_Courts/documents/2015nssc25.pdf>. TWU’s attempts to start a law school gained national media attention over the past year. Justice Campbell responded to the NSBS’s characterization of TWU’s Community Covenant as unlawful.

“It is not unlawful,” he said. “Allowing the NSBS’s decision to stand would have a chilling effect on the liberty of conscience and freedom of religion” in Canada.

The court hearings were held from Dec. 16 to 19, 2014. The intervenors for TWU included the Attorney General of Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

The NSBS argued in the Hearing that TWU’s Community Covenant was a discriminatory code, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) 2001 ruling allowing TWU to operate an education program was now outdated.

Justice Campbell concluded that the 2001 SCC case “is not an expression of outdated concepts,” and that the principles of that case remain relevant. Our  “society is secular,” he said,  “but the state does not have a secularizing mission.’”

“This decision is important not only to TWU’s effort to launch a School of Law,” Saffold said, “but also, we believe it sets an extremely valuable precedent in protection of freedoms for all religious communities and people of faith in Canada.”

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