Censoring the Bible: State board tells Christian school to stop reading offensive verses

20 Jun 2017 Censoring the Bible: State board tells Christian school to stop reading offensive verses

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Feature:  Phil Hills from the Association of Christian Schools International, on an attempt by a School Board in Alberta to censor the use of Scripture that may be considered “offensive”.

News:

Doctors sue Ontario government to defend the right to refuse to kill their own patients

Pro-life activist publishes argument in National Post for free votes on abortion in the House of Commons

So-called “transgender rights” bill C-16 becomes law despite grave concerns about restrictions on free speech

“Canada’s past was pro-life. Canada’s present is pro-choice. Canada’s future is up to us.” Pro-life group launches speaking tour for Canada’s 150th birthday

Sharing the Word of God with every Canadian politician: 1,200 Bibles to be distributed this year.

Doctors sue Ontario government to defend the right to refuse to kill their own patients

Albertos Polizogopoulos, lawyer
Albertos Polizogopoulos, lawyer

A three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court is now weighing the evidence and legal arguments on whether doctors in that province are entitled to conscience protection when it comes to issues such as euthanasia. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario adopted a policy last year requiring all doctors to, at very least, make a so-called “effective referral” for patients who express a desire for doctor-assisted suicide. Lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos represented 5 doctors and several doctors’ groups that are trying to have that policy overturned. He says his entire case basically turned on two arguments: whether it was necessary to require a referral, and whether there might be a better way to handle the issue. “That was the whole case,” Polizogopoulos says.  “Is it necessary, (and) if so, is there a better way to achieve the goal of ensuring access?”

Polizogopoulos says while it’s always tough to predict how the judges will rule, they certainly seemed to understand the arguments he was putting forward.  “The judges were engaged; they seemed to understand and appreciate the arguments being made and the positions being advanced.” He says whether those judges were convinced “is yet to be seen, but I think we got a good hearing.”

There’s no word on when a ruling will come down in the case.

Pro-life activist publishes argument in National Post for free votes on abortion in the House of Commons

Anna Nienhuis, Policy & Research Coordinator, We Need a LAW
Anna Nienhuis, Policy & Research Coordinator, We Need a LAW

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer got a reminder last week of his commitment to allow his MPs to bring forward private members’ bills on controversial conscience issues like abortion. We Need a Law researcher Anna Nienhuis had a piece published in one of Canada’s leading newspapers, the National Post. She says it was partly written to drive home the point about those private members’ bills, but it had a broader focus. “The article also wanted to focus on (the fact) that there’s a shift in the pro-life movement; that means that the debate’s not going away,” regardless of what Mr. Scheer may want. She says the movement wants the free votes “for sure”, and “we are encouraged by his promise of a freer speech environment.” However, she says Scheer needs to know that the pro-life movement is more organized, more politically engaged, and getting Canadians more engaged to make it an issue for voters.

You can read Anna’s op-ed here.

So-called “transgender rights” bill C-16 becomes law despite grave concerns about restrictions on free speech

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The Senate has wrapped up debate on Bill C-16. That’s the law that purportedly entrenches protections for transgendered people into the Criminal Code and the Canada Human Rights Act by adding the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of grounds upon which discrimination would be banned. Supporters – including media coverage at the CTV website – claim that the bill simply means that trans-gendered people will now have the same human rights protections as everyone else. However, opponents have long argued that transgender people are already protected equally in law (on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and disability). Furthermore, many experts are worried that the change in law will infringe on free speech by specifically mandating that everyone use various gender pronouns, irrespective of how they perceive the gender issue. The final Senate vote on the bill was 67 to 11. The bill is now law.

"Canada's past was pro-life. Canada's present is pro-choice. Canada's future is up to us." Pro-life group launches speaking tour for Canada’s 150th birthday

Jonathon Van Maren, Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
Jonathon Van Maren, Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

There’s a national education tour coming up this summer on pro-life apologetics. It’s put together by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. The Centre’s Jonathon Van Maren says there are about a dozen stops planned for Ontario and Alberta between now and mid-August. He says the tour will include training in pro-life apologetics and strategy, but essentially the over-riding theme of all of the stops will focus on Canada’s 150th birthday. He says pro-lifers have two legacies to choose from: “Canada’s past was pro-life, and Canada’s present is pro-choice. But what its future is, is sort of up to us.”

You can check out the full itinerary for the tour here.

Sharing the Word of God with every Canadian politician: 1,200 Bibles to be distributed this year

Bryan Grim, Chair of the Board, ARPA Canada
Bryan Grim, Chair of the Board, ARPA Canada

ARPA Canada has launched a new project in recognition of Canada’s 150th birthday and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The organization is trying to get Bibles placed into the offices of every federal and provincial MP, MLA, MPP, and MNA in the country. That’s about 1,200 Bibles.

ARPA Board Chair Bryan Grim says the idea came after Executive Director Mark Penninga visited some MLA’s offices in Edmonton. “He realized that on the shelves in their offices they had a number of books; among them books that a local ARPA (chapter) had given them: God and Government and the Christian Citizenship Guide, both ARPA publications; and they were displayed prominently on the shelf.” He says that got the Board to thinking “what better book to be on the shelves of a politician than the Bible?” If you want to support this project, you can donate to it on the ARPA website.

LN Feature: Censoring the Bible - State board tells Christian school to stop reading offensive verses

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Controversy in Alberta, over what can and can’t be taught at a Christian School that’s operated by a Public School Board. It involves the Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman, southeast of Edmonton.

The school falls under the authority of the Battle River School Division in Camrose. On the feature this week, we speak with Phillip Hills, the Executive Regional Director for the Association of Christian Schools International.

The Cornerstone Christian Academy is an ACSI School.

LN: Phil, by way of background, we have a lot of listeners across the country who don’t understand how a school can be both a Christian School and be operated under the auspices of a Public School Board. First of all, I’d like you to explain that background, because it’s kind of essential to the story.

PH: Alberta has had a very generous attitude toward education, and has really had a strong emphasis on parental choice. And so a number of years ago, one of the strands that developed around this high parental choice value was: “Why can’t we (meaning public systems) embrace faith-based schools into our public systems?” And so the way these faith-based schools work is they approach a public school system; they ask if they would consider entering into a relationship with them. And what that means is that the school is subject to the authority of the School Board. The school receives full funding in the same way that any public school would. The teachers become part of the union. But the kind of caveat in all of this is that the school itself continues to act as an authority over the curriculum and the teaching program of the school, whereby they work to integrate Biblical ideas into the Provincial curriculum.

LN: So last week, word came out that the Battle River School Board was expressing concern over some of the materials Cornerstone was using in its curriculum. Specifically – and I’ll quote from a News Release from John Carpay at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms – he writes that there’s a claim that the School Board has “ordered Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) to refrain from reading or studying ‘any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals.'”

What’s the background there?

PH: In essence the government of Alberta – a number of years back now, I guess it’s two or three – put together a bill; it was actually the Conservatives that passed it, Bill 10. Which, in essence, specified that all schools in Alberta, whether they be Christian or not, Muslim or not, had to accommodate Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs if the school was given a request by a group of students. So that has been a fairly controversial issue for faith-based schools as they try to negotiate the tension between being true to their faith foundation and also creating an environment in their schools for all students that are safe and don’t involve any bullying or coercion. So that’s sort of the beginning of this issue. In addition to that, the Human Rights Code has been adjusted in Alberta, especially to accommodate transgender students.

So this public Christian School had a student document – a covenant – that determined the behaviour of kids in the school, and sort of sets out the values of the school. It did not explicitly quote Scripture but it referenced – in a footnote – a couple of Scriptures that speak about the kind of lifestyle that people who follow Jesus are to live. And of course one of them is a lifestyle of sexual abstinence except in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. And so the concern on the part of the School Board was that this statement might be in contravention (of) the Human Rights Code of Alberta, and so they’ve been working with the school to change that. The school had actually said “You know, that’s OK. We don’t mind pulling out that reference if some people find it offensive.” But what was lacking was written information from the Board as to exactly what they were looking for from the school, and so the Parent Council said to the School Board, “Please put in writing what you expect of us in this area,” because, of course, it left all kinds of questions about what the school is allowed to teach. And then they gave what everyone considered a bit of a surprising statement; the one that you quoted from John Carpay, which was actually written by the (chair) of the Board, based on legal advice. (And that statement is) that the school is not permitted to read or teach about anything that might be offensive to an individual. And that was way beyond the scope of the conversation about the student covenant. And so it left the school very confused as to what they were allowed to teach and not teach, and it appeared to put a chill on an educational environment that basically supported Biblical values.

LN: The School Board held a meeting to talk about this again last Thursday; lots of parents from Cornerstone showed up. From what I understand, the issues weren’t really resolved. The only thing I’ve seen in the coverage of that meeting is that the Chair of the Board, Lori Skori, was complaining the issue had become public at all. She claimed it wasn’t about the curriculum, but about those guidelines; that covenant, and a “handbook”. How do you read that?

PH: Well that might have been their intent but unfortunately, in the written information that they passed on to the school, clearly it went way beyond guidelines and (the) covenant, because the statement that you quoted from John (Carpay) was actually a statement that was written to the school from the School Board. And it’s so broad and all-encompassing that of course it incorporates the curriculum. And of course the bigger issue is “Is this the beginning of something where increasingly governments are going to be proscribing to faith groups what they can and cannot teach from their doctrine based on whether those ideas line up with current values about the nature of humanity or acceptable behaviour, etc. etc. etc?” Because of course this sounds a lot like censorship.

LN: Well the issue with Cornerstone, as I understand it, hasn’t really been settled based on the coverage I saw of last Thursday’s meeting. No final decisions here, but there’s Constitutional issues; freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. (Do you have) any idea how this is going to play out? A lot of people are saying (that) ultimately, the whole education piece in Alberta has to be settled in the courts. Is that your take?

PH: Well, maybe. Although we have worked really hard over the last three years to reach out to the NDP government. You know, we’ve sent letters; in fact, I know the community of Kingman literally sent thousands of letters from its extended community to the Minister of Education out of concern for the way that the government was moving ideologically in terms of imposing a new set of values on all schools, whether they be faith-based or not. And we really believe that the best way to resolve this is through legislation that basically acknowledges the presence of faith-based schools; that reaffirms the value of parental choice, and that allows us to continue to operate freely.

But if all of that lobbying is not effective, then the next stage is – unfortunately – to have to move into the courts. And one thing that people don’t understand – and it seems to be the case with this School Board – is that they’ve dipped their toe into a Constitutional pool by, as a government agency, in essence restricting the religious rights of a group of faith-based people and the school that they have formed. And there’s already some pretty good constitutional law that supports our freedom in that area, the most recent ruling being the Loyola case. The thing is, the Board has treated this like a Provincial issue over human rights, but Human Rights legislation protects us from each other. It doesn’t protect us from government necessarily. It’s the Constitution that protects us from the government, and as a government agency there is definitely a Constitutional piece here, and so if necessary we will have to move it in that direction. Because it is our firm conviction that what we’re doing here is not necessarily fighting for the right of one school to freely represent its faith (and) worldview. We’re fighting for the right of every Canadian to follow their conscience, and to worship as they please, and to form institutions that the government can’t interfere with that represent their values. And we believe that if the government is successful in restricting the religious rights of this small group – and basically proscribing appropriate doctrine to a faith group – it sets a precedent that is to the detriment of every person in Canada.

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