A Canadian Christian school has been ordered by a public school board that it partners with to refrain from reading or studying “any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals.” Included are passages from the New Testament that speak against fornication, adultery, idolatry, and witchcraft.
Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) in Kingman, Alberta, has been ordered by the Battle River School Division (BRSD) to refrain from reading or studying portions of the Bible that the board says might contravene Alberta’s human rights legislation.
The Christian school was incorporated in 1986 as a ministry of Cornerstone Evangelical Baptist Church. It belongs to the Association of Christian Schools International while also partnering with the BRSD. According to its website, parents in Camrose and nearby towns send their children to the Christian school because it integrates Bible study into the approved provincial curriculum. Formerly a private school, it joined the school division in 2009. It serves about 180 students.
In its vision statement, the school states that "students will have a good working knowledge of the Bible as a foundation to their education."
"Cornerstone Christian Academy offers a program that integrates faith, life, and learning. At its foundation is the Christian Bible, the belief that God is central to our humanity, that Jesus Christ is our personal Saviour and Lord, and God's Holy Spirit is present and at work in the world today," the school states.
The public school board trustees will meet this Thursday, June 15 to discuss the Bible verses they found to be offending in the school’s parent-student handbook. Some of the Bible passages formerly in the handbook included warnings against lifestyle choices that Christians consider sinful. Two passages were:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies.
While the school has already agreed to drop the “offending” passages from the handbook, the school board has taken their demands up a notch. The board is now telling the school that it must remove the passages from anywhere in the school too.
The school board’s Diane Hutchinson said trustees think these verses might contravene Alberta’s human rights legislation.
“As a school system, we have an obligation: we need to follow the School Act and human rights legislation,” Hutchinson told Global News. “As a public school division, we have that obligation and it is our obligation to ensure that our schools are also compliant.”
But the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which is representing the Christian school, believes the public board is bullying Christians.
“Its attempt to prohibit the reading or studying of any, scripture that "could be considered offensive to particular individuals" is not only unwarranted and unrealistic, it is contrary to the Master Agreement between BRSD and the Society [Christian school], where BRSD agreed not to "attempt to change the essential nature of the CCA program" set out in the School Vision and Purpose Document,” the Justice Centre stated in a June 8th letter to the BRSD Board of Trustees.
“BRSD has directly violated the warning of the Supreme Court of Canada not to interfere in religion or beliefs. BRSD is legally obligated to respect the parental choices expressed through the Society [Christian school], concerning the religious education of their children at CCA.”
“The operation of CCA as an alternative program emphasizing a particular religion requires collaboration between BRSD and the Society [Christian school], principally because only the Society can determine the religious nature of the program and BRSD is constitutionally prohibited from doing so,” the letter stated.
Justice Centre president John Carpay said the Christian school will not let a public school board dictate which parts of the Bible are acceptable and which are not.
“The government’s duty of neutrality, required by the Supreme Court of Canada, means that a school board cannot dictate whether verses in the Torah, Koran, New Testament or Guru Granth Sahib are acceptable,” said Carpay in a press release.
Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and regularly contributes to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles, was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.