A Christian school in Alberta, Canada, is learning the perils of depending on public funding for its operation.
Cornerstone Christian Academy and Battle River School Division have enjoyed a nine-year cooperative arrangement where the Christian school is operated as an alternative public school, providing nondenominational Christian instruction. BRSD leased facilities to the school and provided instructional resources available to other public schools. Thanks to the partnership, student tuition was lower than private Christian schooling, with fees going primarily to cover facility costs and bus transportation.
But that has come to an end in a dispute over the school’s use of two biblical passages that BRSD board members contend “denigrate” and “vilify” LGBT individuals.
Cornerstone Chairwoman Deanna Margel said school staff were told by email the passages from the letters of St. Paul “should not be read or studied.” She called the directive “shocking,” reported the London Express.
“We’re talking about freedom of religion, but we’re also talking about freedom of expression. We need every single word there [from the Bible] to challenge us, to call us to greater understanding. It’s just so important.”
A spokesman with the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedom, a legal group representing Cornerstone, said BRSD’s funding-body members “have no right to impose their own ideology on schools they disagree with.”
Earlier this year, Cornerstone removed the Corinthians passage from its website at the request of BRSD, but planned to include it and the Galatians passage in the student handbook.
BRSD sent the email following last month’s change in legislation adding “gender expression” and “gender identity” to Canada’s Human Rights Code and to the Criminal Code’s hate-crime section.
A BRSD spokesman said trustees believed the verses might contravene Alberta’s human-rights legislation.
BRSD chairwoman Lauri Skori called it inappropriate to share “any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone’s sexual orientation.”
“As a public-school board we must ensure that any educational programming provided complies with board policy and procedure, provincial legislation including the Alberta Human Rights Act and the School Act,” the board told Margel.
“Unless those concerns can be resolved, we are unable to maintain the current relationship,” it added.
That “current relationship” was terminated at a special meeting last week by BRSD trustees who voted to cut ties with the Christian academy.
In the give and take, Margel agreed to drop the contentious passages from the student handbook, but she expressed concern the trustees would next dictate what could be taught in the classroom. Reassurance there was no intent to censor Bible teaching was accompanied by the board’s stipulation that joint discussions be kept confidential. The academy could not agree, with the JCCF spokesman describing the demand as amounting to a “gag order,” reported Christian Times.
“It seems unwise, and completely unnecessary, to throw away years of productive co-operation in mere weeks because we’ve simply hit an unusual bump in the road. Things just don’t add up,” said Margel.
Due to a 365-day termination “transition period” in the master agreement, BRSD and Cornerstone will continue their current relationship until June 30, 2018.