Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk has revoked his approval of a controversial law school at Trinity Western University in Langley.
Virk released the text of a letter sent to the university on Dec. 11.
“Based on the current situation, I have decided to revoke my approval of the proposed law school at Trinity Western University,” Virk said.
This means the university cannot enrol any students in its proposed program.
“The current uncertainty over the status of the regulatory body approval [by the Law Society of British Columbia] means prospective graduates may not be able to be called to the bar, or practise law, in British Columbia” Virk went on to say.
“This is a significant change to the context in which I made my original decision,” Virk said, adding “once the legal issues are resolved, TWU will have the option to renew its request for consent.”
The decision comes less than a month after Virk sent a letter to TWU president Bob Kuhn that said his Dec 18, 2013 approval of the law school requires the university to enroll its first students within three years, a deadline he doubts they can meet because of the legal battles between the private Christian university and the various law societies that refused to recognize the school.
“It seems unlikely that there will be a final determination by the courts with respect to the decisions by the various law societies … before my conditional consent will expire,” Virk said.
TWU president Bob Kuhn said the university is disappointed with Virk’s decision.
“It is difficult to conceive of a justifiable basis for the minister to have revoked his approval of the school of law program,” said Kuhn.
“We remain committed to having a School of Law,” said Kuhn, “and now have to carefully consider all our options.”
Kuhn hinted there could be a lawsuit.
“There are such important rights and freedoms at stake that we may have no choice but to seek protection of them in court,” Kuhn said.
At issue is a clause forbidding “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” in the covenant that all staff and students at the university are expected to abide by.
Critics say the clause is anti-gay and conflicts with a lawyer’s responsibility to uphold the rights and freedoms of all persons.
The TWU has said the issue is one of religious freedom.
Kuhn, an Abbotsford lawyer, won a court battle over the same issue with the B.C. College of Teachers several years before he became president of the university.
The case involved the College of Teachers refusal to allow the university to assume full responsibility for its teacher training because of the TWU Community Standards at the time had a list of “practices that are biblically condemned” that mentioned “sexual sins including … homosexual behaviour.”
In an 8-1 ruling in 2001, the high court declared that that TWU “is a private institution that is exempted, in part, from the B.C. human rights legislation and to which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply.”
The court decision said the university can believe what it wants about gay people so long as it doesn’t actually discriminate against them.