In Canada Do We Let Government Agencies Punish Conduct Which is Legal?

It is not illegal in Canada to affiliate with the church community of your choice. It is not illegal in Canada to believe that a union between one man and one woman is uniquely sacred. It is not illegal in Canada to privately associate for peaceful religious purposes with others who share the same religious beliefs. It is not illegal in Canada for a church community to offer its members a legal education.

By punishing conduct that is otherwise legal, Ontario and B.C. Law Societies are abusing their power. They are outrageously trampling upon the basic freedoms of Canadians.

Even if you aren’t among those who have been deprived of your freedom in this way, you should still object. Tomorrow, it might be you!

The Ontario and the B.C. Law Societies have refused to approve the legal training provided to its members by the Trinity Western church community for no other reason except for the religious beliefs of that church community. In doing so, these Law Societies exclude graduates from the public judicial system simply because those graduates are affiliated with the church community of Trinity Western. This tramples on several basic freedoms:
1. First, they are penalizing those graduates simply for their religious affiliation. This is abundantly clear since the Law Societies make no enquiry into the religious beliefs or practices of any of these graduates themselves. It is enough to attract penalty that the graduate is simply affiliated with the Trinity Western church, regardless of the graduate’s specific beliefs or practices. This, of course, is blatant religious discrimination and a violation of freedom of religion.

No Canadian legislature has authorized the exclusion from legal practice of anyone based simply upon their affiliation with a church.

Even if a legislature authorized the exclusion of members of a specific church from the practice of law, it would violate historical guarantees of free religion going back as far as the Magna Carta in 1215. Another guarantee of freedom in the Magna Carta would also be violated. It states: “For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood.”

2. Second, the Law Societies’ policy of punishing law graduates affiliated with the Trinity Western church is entirely based upon the aggressive opposition by those who govern the Law Societies against one or both of two peaceful religious beliefs that their policy would compel the church to abandon:
a) The Trinity Western church believes that union between one man and one woman is uniquely sacred; and
b) The Trinity Western church believes that membership in their congregation should only be offered to people who agree with the beliefs of their church.

Blocking participation in the public justice system is the only punishment available to the Law Societies to compel the Trinity Western church community to abandon those beliefs.

To punish an individual or a private community simply because of their peaceful religious beliefs about marriage is, of course, a suppression of freedom of religion.

To punish an individual or a private community for choosing to associate peacefully for religious purposes with others who share their religious beliefs is not only a suppression of freedom of religion but also a suppression of freedom of association.

3. Third, the Law Societies’ policy of punishing law graduates affiliated with the Trinity Western church is entirely based upon the aggressive opposition by those who govern the Law Societies against allowing the Trinity Western church community the freedom to provide its members with a legal education.

No Canadian legislature has authorized prohibiting any church community from offering their members legal training simply because of the peaceful religious beliefs or practices of that church community. Even if a legislature prohibited a church from offering its members legal training because of that church’s peaceful religious beliefs or practices, it would violate the long-standing guarantees of freedom of religion mentioned above.

Even if you aren’t among those who have been deprived of your freedom in this way, you should still object. Tomorrow, it might be you!
STEPHEN WOODWORTH

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