OTTAWA, MAY 18, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops applauded a Supreme Court decision that allows a university to accredit public school teachers while it requires its own students to refrain from “biblically condemned” behavior.
The Supreme Court of Canada, by an 8-1 vote, upheld the decisions of the lower courts which ordered the British Columbia College of Teachers to grant accreditation to the teacher education program of Trinity Western University.
The teachers college had refused to approve the program because Trinity Western requires its faculty and students to live by a set of standards whereby they agree to refrain from certain practices, including homosexual behavior. The teachers college said Trinity Western was thus discriminatory against homosexuals.
In a statement, the nation´s Catholic bishops´ conference said, “The decision is a strong affirmation and much needed reminder that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and public freedom that is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It confirms that it is wrong to stereotype people with religious beliefs as intolerant or to suggest that students of religious institutions are unqualified to work in the public sector.”
The court ruled in favor of Trinity Western in a battle that pitted the British Columbia College of Teachers´ claim that the school´s policies are discriminatory against the fundamentalist Christian university´s call for religious freedom in its privately funded and privately run institution.
The Supreme Court case dates back to January 1995, when Trinity Western applied to the teachers college to add a required provincial certification year to its teacher education degree program. Previously, Trinity Western students had to attend Simon Fraser University for a year to obtain their provincial certification.
In June 1996, the British Columbia College of Teachers denied the application, based on a waiver all Trinity Western students must sign before they can be admitted to the school. By signing the pledge, the students promise that they will not drink, smoke, swear, use marijuana and will abstain from premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior.
The waiver caused controversy in the western Canadian province´s education circles, and the teachers college decided against letting Trinity Western train teachers, saying the rules show an inherent bias against homosexuals. The top court rejected that argument.