A public, K-12 Christian Academy in Alberta, Canada, has been told to stop teaching certain parts of the Bible, which can be deemed as “offensive” by certain groups of people. Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) received a warning from the Battle River School Division (BRSD) to discontinue referring to various parts of Scripture in the Bible, claiming that these passages violate fundamental human rights. Laurie Skori, CCA’s board chair told NationalPost.com that the BRSD has “broken our trust” by talking to the media. She also said that this issue was made merely to “create controversy.”
The offensive passage comes from Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads, “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.” In some versions, the term “effeminate” was replaced with “men who have sexual relations with other men.”
In a terse e-mail exchange between the two involved parties, the school board concluded that the school should remove “any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals….[particularly] any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone’s sexual orientation.” Moreover, these texts “should not be read or studied in school.”
The story became international news, with many citizens claiming that such a response violated their freedom of speech and parents’ rights to raise their children in whatever belief they choose. John Carpay, the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF) wrote in a response statement that “trustees enjoy the legal right to send their own kids to various schools that align with the parents’ beliefs and convictions. But these trustees have no right to impose their ideology on schools they disagree with.” CCA chair, Deanna Margel, concurred, saying that the teaching of Scripture cannot be something people just “pick and choose.” Margel emphasized the importance of reading religious texts in their entirety, even if some aspects may challenge conventional sensibilities.
“We need every single word there to challenge us, to call us to greater understanding. It’s just so important,” she said. “We’re talking about freedom of religion, but we’re (also) talking about freedom of expression.” (Related: New FDA guidelines threaten religious freedoms; Holy water could be regulated as “drugs” and rosaries as “medical devices”.)
BSRD spokesperson Diane Hutchinson said that the board was compelled to make such a decision after several provisions on the protection of gender and sexual minorities were included to the Alberta Human Rights Act in late 2015. Hutchinson argued that the issue was not on religious censorship, but compassion extended towards the LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) community. She focused on the increased awareness and sensitivity society gives to sexual minorities and concludes that this issue is being made bigger than it needs to be.
That said, CCA sought help from the JCCF who issued an eight-page letter to the board. The letter supposedly outlined how this prohibition — good intentions or no — were “unwarranted” and “unrealistic.”
“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,” Carpay further expounded.
Members at BSRD were untouched, however, and sent a response e-mail less than eight hours later reaffirming the Board’s decision. In fact, the Board went on to state that they would have a “frank discussion” on whether CCA was capable of respecting and abiding the provisions and guidelines stipulated by them. Hutchinson though clarified that this would not mean banning specific Bible verses from the classroom, but setting certain boundaries and whether CCA could live with them.
Nevertheless, should this argument prove to be dissatisfactory for both parties, CCA may need to find a new school board soon. This adds increased pressure to the already heated dialogue, as neither party wants to split in the middle of the year.