Trinity Western drops controversial covenant

Supreme Court forces TWU to drop mandatory signing of its covenant

Last month, Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Christian university in Langley, dropped its mandatory requirement for students to sign a controversial covenant containing a promise to abstain from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

In June, TWU lost a battle with the Supreme Court, in which the court upheld the right of provincial law societies to reject the graduates of the university’s proposed law school. Law societies in both B.C. and Ontario argued the mandatory covenant discriminated against LGBTQ students.

In their 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court said the limit on religious freedom was minor and that accrediting the school would have threatened the integrity of the Canadian legal system. Despite this, TWU had previously received preliminary approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to create a law school in 2012.

TWU president Bob Kuhn said the change to university’s covenant, which doesn’t apply to faculty, wasn’t influenced by the law-school controversy. Despite removing its requirement to sign the covenant, Kuhn said that the university has no plans to pursue opening its law school.

Though TWU still stands behind the religious perspective of its covenant, Kuhn said the university dropped the requirement in the name of inclusivity.

“In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 Academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University,” Kuhn said to the university’s board of governors on August 9.

While signing the covenant is no longer mandatory for those wishing to study at Trinity Western, the covenant itself hasn’t been changed. Students who still do want to sign it are asked to agree that they will abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Given that the covenant itself hasn’t been changed and that staff and faculty are still required to sign it, LGBTQ organizations across Canada still have concerns.

As well, if TWU wants to revive its law school proposal, it will now require provincial approval to do so, said B.C.’s Advanced Education Minister, Melanie Mark. However, even if TWU’s law school is approved, law societies in B.C. and Ontario are unsure if they would now accept law students from the university.