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New Brunswick to accredit controversial law school proposed in B.C.

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. - The New Brunswick Law Society has voted to accredit a controversial law school proposed in British Columbia.

Trinity Western, a privately funded university with about 4,000 students in B.C.'s Fraser Valley, plans to open a law school in the fall of 2016, but it has faced resistance over its so-called community covenant, which all students are required to sign.

The covenant includes a pledge not to engage in sex outside of marriage — defined in the document as between a man and a woman. Students can face discipline for violating the covenant, either on or off campus, according to the school's student handbook.

In announcing the decision Friday, New Brunswick Law Society President John Malone said the council will always recognize both religious freedoms and the right to sexual orientation without discrimination.

"No matter which law school they graduate from, all articled students complete law society training and evaluation. This includes the core aspects of professional responsibility, including non-discrimination," Malone wrote in an emailed statement.

"Council also gave consideration to preliminary approval of the Trinity Law School program by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. As well, the province of British Columbia has accredited the proposed law degree."

He said submissions were received from lawyers both for and against accreditation.

The law society received 96 written submissions and nine requests to make presentations when the motion was considered Friday as part of its annual meeting in St. Andrews.

In a statement, university president Bob Kuhn said the decision in New Brunswick was made after a "thoughtful and measured expression of views."

"Evangelical Christianity is an important part of the Canadian cultural mosaic," he said. "In a free and democratic society the faith of TWU graduates cannot preclude them from practicing law."

Earlier this month, lawyers in British Columbia objected to the university's plans to open a law school.

In April, the Law Society of Upper Canada's board of directors voted not to accredit graduates from the school, while the council of Nova Scotia's law society voted not to accredit graduates unless the school either exempts law students from its covenant or removes the offending passage from the document.

The school has launched legal challenges of the decisions in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

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