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Trinity Western University drops controversial community covenant

BC Christian university says it will stop making students promise not to have sex outside of heterosexual marriage

Students walk past a cross on campus at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, on Feb 22, 2017. Credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

Trinity Western University will stop making students promise not to have sex outside of a heterosexual marriage, the university announced on Tuesday.

For years, Trinity Western students had to sign the community covenant, which forbade all sex outside of a heterosexual marriage, on- or off-campus.

The covenant will still apply to university staff, a spokesperson told Xtra.

Trinity Western’s proposed law school ran into difficulty after several law societies said they would refuse to accredit the university’s students because of the community covenant. Opponents argued that the covenant would mean that some law students would have to choose between their identities and their careers.

In June, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Ontario and BC law societies could refuse to accredit TWU’s law school graduates because of the covenant, which those law societies had argued was discriminatory.

The spokesperson said that the university’s board of governors, which voted to drop the covenant last week, hasn’t made any decision about whether to try to go ahead with the proposed law school, which has not opened and has not been approved by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.

In a statement published Tuesday, TWU President Robert Kuhn says the decision to suspend the covenant was made “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.”

TWU will “remain a Biblically-based, mission-focused, academically excellent University, fully committed to our foundational evangelical Christian principles,” Kuhn says in the statement.

A spokesperson told Xtra that Kuhn would not be doing interviews about the decision to suspend the covenant.

In 2016, LGBT students told Xtra the covenant drove them deeper into the closet and made them feel isolated.