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February 1999

College vindicated in gay lawsuit

By Jonathan Bloedow
Special to The Interim

On Jan. 4, in a 2-to-1 decision, the B.C. Court of Appeal directed the British Columbia College of Teachers to approve Trinity Western University's application to offer the final year of its teacher-education program. Currently, students have to complete the program at another institution.

The BCCT denied TWU's application in 1996 citing the University's requirement that students sign a statement pledging they will refrain from adultery, premarital sex, and homosexual behaviour.

The BCCT said it was concerned that students who sign such a statement might be "intolerant" in the classroom, particularly toward homosexuals. According to court documents, the College also objected to TWU's Christian world view.

The College said that allowing TWU a teaching program was "contrary to the public interest" since it is "a private institution that appears to follow discriminatory practices that public institutions are, by law, not allowed to follow."

In the court's decision, Mr. Justice Goldie was forthright: "There is not one bit of evidence that any TWU-trained teachers have behaved in the classroom in a manner incompatible with the standards of the Canadian community," he wrote.

He concluded that the BCCT's decisions reflect an error in law and are factually, patently unreasonable.

The court ruled that the College cannot go beyond matters such as teachers' professional responsibility and competence, and disadvantage TWU because of a belief that its code is discriminatory.

In so doing, it upheld a decision previously made by the B.C. Supreme Court in September 1997, which struck down the College's decision. The College appealed the ruling.

"The Court made a sound decision in the interests of all Canadians," said Guy Saffold, TWU's executive vice-president.

"We live in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society where people of different views should be judged based on standards of professional competence, ethical conduct, and tolerance and respect for others," he said.

TWU is strongly in favour of these values and makes them an integral part of its teacher education curriculum, says the University. "Today's decision ... requires that the agencies of our government not act without evidence to limit constitutionally guaranteed freedoms."

Commenting on the decision, Linda Rasmussen of the Canada Family Action Coalition said: "As educators, it is worrisome that the BCCT has demonstrated a lack of tolerance and acceptance towards those with different views ... We are encouraged by the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal. This bucks the recent trend of Canadian courts to make decisions based on politically correct opinion, rather than the letter of the law."

Mrs. Rasmussen, who has also been following the Surrey school board controversy with the B.C. Teachers Federation, scolded them and the BCCT.

"Both the BCCT and BCTF have become unaccountable monopolies that seem to be controlled by a small number of activists."

TWU, located in Langley, is a privately funded, Christian liberal arts university, enrolling over 2,500 students this year. The BCCT has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

This article appeared originally in The Conservative Times, and is reprinted here with permission.




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