October 15, 2018 (Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms) – The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) today released recent correspondence (1, 2, 3) between Alberta Education and independent faith-based schools.
In September of 2018, Deputy Minister Curtis Clark threatened religious schools with defunding and loss of accreditation if they do not remove religious content from their “Safe and Caring” school policies.
During the week of October 1-5, several schools whose Safe and Caring policies had been deemed non-compliant by the Alberta Education “Safe and Caring Team” requested clarification (1, 2, 3) as to how the religious views expressed in their policies could be found to violate “diversity” or be “unwelcoming, uncaring and/or disrespectful”.The October correspondence shows the Alberta government refusing to provide any explanation as to how, for example, “diversity” is threatened by a school's policy that reflects the school's belief in the Bible as truth. The October correspondence shows Alberta Education justifying its ban on faith references in school policies solely on the basis of “the opinion of the Minister.
Various schools responded to this “rainbow reprimand” by asking simple and direct questions about how or why the religious content of their school policies was contrary to “diversity” or contrary to providing a safe, welcoming, caring and respectful learning environment. Alberta Education responded with a form response (1, 2) that cited only “the opinion of the Minister” to support Alberta Education's conclusion that these schools' religious beliefs, expressed in their own school policies, were unacceptable.
“Certainly, the School Act empowers the Minister to decide whether, in his opinion, school policies comply or do not comply with the School Act,” stated lawyer and Justice Centre President John Carpay.
“David Eggen refuses to explain how diversity is harmed when religious schools accept the Torah or the Bible as truth. This hostility to explaining his opinion is not supported by the School Act, which requires the Minister to make reasonable decisions. Reasonable decisions are ones that can be readily explained,” continued Carpay.
“The fact that the Education Minister has the power to shut down schools for not complying with the School Act does not entitle the Minister to behave irrationally by refusing to provide an explanation for his position,” concluded Carpay.
The Justice Centre represents parents and dozens of schools in a constitutional challenge to various provisions of Bill 24, including secrecy provisions that make it illegal for teachers and principals to inform parents about their own children as young as five.
Published with permission from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.