Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of joining a group at the Laurentian Leadership Centre as part of a nationwide concert of prayer for religious freedom in Canada – focused on the Supreme Court of Canada hearing scheduled for this Thursday and Friday. It’s not too late to pray, and to add this to your prayer list for this week and for the coming months.
In 2013 Trinity Western University, a private Christian university, satisfied all academic requirements of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the body approved by all law societies to assess accreditation standards for new law schools. That approval was followed by accreditation from the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education. In 2014, three law societies balked at their agreement with the Federation, but not for academic reasons. The law societies of British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia objected to TWU’s Christian nature, particularly it’s Community Covenant which stands in place of the codes of conduct found on other university campuses. TWU’s staff and student covenant expresses a Christian standard of behaviour that is best summarized by Galatians 5:22-23, and includes a prohibition on sex outside of marriage between a woman and a man.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
As it turns out, even when “against such things there is no law” it doesn’t necessarily mean that a bunch of lawyers will accept your standards as legitimate. The law society in Nova Scotia was unsuccessful in that province’s courts and decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In B.C., the law society was also unsuccessful, but appealed to the nation’s highest court. In Ontario, the law society was successful and TWU has appealed to the Supreme Court. Both the Ontario and B.C. cases will be heard together at the end of this week on November 30 and December 1. Both cases will be webcast live by the Supreme Court of Canada.
So how can you pray?
First, thank God that you are joining a symphony of prayer from coast to coast to coast. Sunday’s concert may have ended but the symphony goes on.
Second, thank God that we live in the nation of Canada, where our fundamental freedoms of freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief and opinion, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association – all freedoms that benefit religious freedom for all Canadians – are recognized in our constitution and have been upheld by government and the courts.
Then, please pray for the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada who will hear this case. In order of seniority: Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, Justice Rosalie Abella, Justice Michael Moldaver, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis, Justice Richard Wagner, Justice Clément Gascon, Justice Suzanne Côté, Justice Russell Brown, Justice Malcolm Rowe. They will hear the case this week, but will deliberate on it for several months before issuing a decision. The Chief Justice retires December 16 of this year, requiring any decisions she participates in to be issued within six months of that date. Please consider joining in regular prayer until the decision is issued. We pray for the Justices in accordance with 1 Timothy 2:1-3, as people in authority in our nation. May they have ears to hear. May they be wise and impartial in their judgments.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour… (2 Timothy 2:1-3)
Pray for the safety of all those traveling to and from Ottawa for this hearing, for their health, and particularly for the lawyers to have wisdom in their presentations before the court.
Pray for TWU’s legal team: Kevin Sawatsky is Dean of the TWU School of Business, and a lawyer; in Ontario, TWU is represented by Robert Staley and Ranjan Agarwal; and, in B.C. by Kevin Boonstra and Jonathan Maryniuk. Brayden Volkenant is a student who would like to pursue a law degree at TWU and also a party to the B.C. case. He is represented by Kevin Boonstra, Jonathan Maryniuk, Andrew Delmonico and Anne Cochrane.
Pray for the lawyers of the interveners supporting TWU in their arguments before the court: Barry Bussey and Philip Milley for the Canadian Counsel of Christian Charities; André Schutten for the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada; Bill Sammon for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Derek Ross and Deina Warren for the Christian Legal Fellowship; Gerald Chipeur, Jonathan Martin and Grace MacKintosh for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada; Albertos Polizogopoulos, Geoffrey Cowper, Kristen Debs and Geoffrey Trotter for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada; Gwendoline Allison for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Faith and Freedom Alliance; Avnish Nanda and Balpreet Singh Boparai for the World Sikh Organization; Eugene Meehan for the International Coalition of Professors of Law; and, Eugene Meehan and Daniel Santoro for the National Coalition of Catholic School Trustees Associations.
In addition, representatives from TWU have asked for prayer that there will be a healing of the hurts revealed through this process. The request is particularly that the dialogue between all people who live together in the shared free and democratic society of Canada might continue with respect and acceptance, even when there is not agreement. May our sins also be forgiven – perhaps, considering some sins to be worse than others, speaking words of condemnation rather than invitation, or simply as broken people allowing our brokenness and rough edges to cause hurt to others.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Will you pray?