Canada's first faith-based law school has received preliminary approval from the nation's law societies, despite objections to its seemingly anti-gay policies.
Trinity Western University in westernmost Canada received the nod on Wednesday from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada for its plan to enrol 60 first-year law students from 2016.
Prominent lawyers and hundreds of law students expressed concern it might produce barristers with an anti-gay bias.
Trinity risks producing "graduates who don't fully comprehend Section 15 [of the constitution on equality rights], for example, or have a very skewed view about what Section 15 of the charter means, or an overly enhanced importance attached to freedom of religion," criminal defence lawyer Eric Gottardi told the daily Globe and Mail. Constitutional lawyer Clayton Ruby said he would sue if the school passes the final hurdle of obtaining provincial accreditation.
More than 1,000 law students across Canada also signed petitions against the proposal, alleging the school discriminates against gays and lesbians.
They point to Trinity's threat of expulsion for students who break a pledge of abstaining from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman".
A footnote to this section in the school's student handbook leads to Bible passages that condemn homosexuality.
The university did not respond to requests for an interview.
But the private Christian institution has reportedly said it welcomes gays and lesbian students.
"We do not ask about a prospective student's sexual orientation, and many gay and lesbian students have graduated from our university," said a statement cited by Canadian media. "Prospective students who do not agree with our religious views are welcome to apply to another university."
This was "a simple case of discrimination against gays and lesbians", said Ruby.
Civil rights lawyer Jason Gratl added that by insisting on "superstitious, theological, puritanical, sexual standards for its students, the Trinity Western University law school will lose not only sexually active gays and lesbians from the pool of potential students, but also a good portion of reasonable, self-respecting equality seekers."