Let them – or else. That, in a nutshell, was the stern warning — in the name of provincial law – that was given to Canadian Pastor Brian Coldwell, chairman of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society and pastor of New Testament Baptist Church. Non-compliance could see the schools lose their charter as well as millions of dollars in tax- funded revenues.
Coldwell was ordered specifically specifically to allow gays freedom to form homosexual clubs in his Christian schools amongst the vast majority of straight students.
The orders are in blatant and direct contravention of the school’s moral standards, not to mention the rights of straight students not to be coerced or influenced against their strongly-held religious convictions.
Heather Clark for christiannews.net further noted that Pastor Coldwell is standing firm and has, so far, refused to buckle under the pressure. Coldwell runs Meadows Baptist Academy and Harvest Baptist Academy in Parkland County in Alberta.
Alberta Education Minister David Eggen reportedly sent the demand letter to Coldwell on September 2nd. Earlier this year, Eggen had also sent a letter to school boards throughout the province, advising that officials must draft and submit policies by the end of March explaining how they would accommodate homosexual and transgender students.
But Coldwell told CBC News that he would not comply.
“I have a duty as a pastor to protect the flock of God,” he said. “And there is no way under Heaven I’m going to allow gay activists to come in here and basically undermine our ministries and our religious freedoms or confuse and corrupt our children.”
“To be able to come into religious institutions, Christian schools, churches and demand that we permit them to set up their GSA clubs and have a platform to advance what I would call anti-Christian, hostile liberal, secular values, undermines our Christian faith,” Coldwell said.
He added that students are free to choose other schools if they don’t align with the Christian faith and its teachings on sexuality.
“If a student doesn’t agree with our statement of faith, and our Christian moral values and so forth, then they have the option of attending many other schools–secular schools, non-religious schools,” he told the CBC. “We’re not saying that the gay community doesn’t have any rights. But they just don’t have the right to come in here and push their agenda, or what you might call the rainbow ideology.”
Eggen sent Coldwell a letter this month, laying down a deadline of two weeks to send written assurance that gay-straight alliances would be allowed at his school. Coldwell again refused, and instead, Eggen received a letter from Coldwell’s attorney.
“They did not change their position,” Eggen told reporters on Monday. “They did not give us any indication that they would provide written assurance that they would allow students to form a gay-straight alliance.”
Based on a separate report published in LifeSiteNews.com by Steve Weatherbe on these same developments, Board chairman Brian Coldwell has made it clear that neither gay-straight alliances nor “polygender” washrooms will see the light of day at his group’s two schools.
Eggen then reacted by posting an open letter to students within the province, advising, “You have the right to create a gay-straight alliance or a queer-straight alliance, and you have the right to name your clubs this way. You have the right to use the washroom that is consistent with your gender identity.”
Clark noted that Eggen has now launched a formal inquiry into the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society. He said that the society could possibly lose its charter or the $2.5 million in funding it receives from the government.
Eggen’s pro-gay position is not lacking in support. Kris Wells of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta told Global News that he would like for Eggen to be even stricter in his enforcement.
“If you don’t comply with the law, then there are consequences,” he said. “I’m not sure how many more opportunities school boards need to be given.”
Groups like Wells’ believe that the government should have created one uniform policy and required all schools to conform. “What we’ve seen is what we thought would happen,” he said. “Schools are not going to comply no matter how many chances they get.”
Weatherbe also noted Eggen’s assertion that a third-party consultant will be appointed to examine, according to the Canadian Press, “what steps the society is taking to make all students have a safe and caring environment.”
LGBT advocates responded by urging Eggen to abandon the inquiry and remove public funding for the two schools. Others urged Eggen to sit down one-on-one with the school group’s leader, Pastor Brian Coldwell.
The province’s Liberal opposition leader David Swann has also called for defunding or removal of school boards that refused to apply Bill 10, the law that requires gay-straight alliance clubs or the ministry’s anti-bullying guidelines. According to a separate report, the bill also demands that every school board develop a policy to protect LGBTQ students.
While Eggen cited the need to “support and stand behind all Albertans’ human rights,” defenders of independent schools said Eggen was the one violating the human rights of Christian parents.
Coldwell told LifeSiteNews earlier in September that defunding “would be a mistake, but I wouldn’t put anything past this government. This is about ideology for them. They won’t be satisfied until they have gay-straight alliances and the rainbow ideology in every Christian school.”
At that time, Coldwell said Christian parents had a right to their own schools and the same funding any other schools receive. Now, however, Coldwell says the matter is in litigation and won’t comment further.
His case has been taken up by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which has issued a letter to the government, presumably making the constitutional case for the religious rights of parents.
Making that argument publicly was Mark Penninga, executive director of Association for Reformed Political Action. In an Edmonton Journal op-ed piece, he asserted that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects individuals from government actions like Eggen’s attempt “to impose his radical ideology on every school in the province.”
But the Charter does not cover relations between individuals, he continued, such as those between private groups of parents who form their own schools and individual LGBT students who demand homosexual clubs or access to washrooms of the opposite sex.
“Eggen does not have the authority,” Penninga said, “to use the strong arm of the state, including the arbitrary slashing of funding,” to require Christian schools to violate their principles.
Making the same argument was Theresa Ng of Informed Parents. Ng is a former public school teacher who argued the funds belong to parents in the first place, not the government, and ought to reflect the diversity of parents and Albertans in general.
“To suggest that only some educational choices are ‘valid’ to receive public taxpayer funding demonstrates a shockingly discriminatory premise,” she wrote, “which declares that the needs and values of some people are worthy of inclusion in our publicly funded education system – and others are not.
“This alarming premise undermines and fundamentally corrupts the functioning of a pluralistic, multicultural and free, democratic society,” she added.
However, not all faith-based schools have however resisted the Eggen-led onslaught pandering to the gay minorities in schools. Several Catholic boards, such as Edmonton’s and Calgary’s, have permitted diversity clubs.
Edmonton Catholic chairwoman Marilyn Bergstra told LifeSiteNews that transgender students will be allowed into the washrooms of their choice and that if students wanted gay-straight alliances they would be permitted to form them.
However, Adriana LaGrange, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association added that all such clubs would be supervised by adults and that the Catholic schools preferred to deal with the bullying issue and minorities on an individual basis rather than a group basis.
“I am confident,” she told LifeSiteNews, “that the ‘Safe and Caring School’ policy in place in all our schools is keeping with the law and is honoring our Catholic faith.”
Eggen on his part appears not to have been as ‘safe and caring’ in his approach towards stakeholders that have been non-supportive of his pro-gay proposals.
Pastor Coldwell told LifeSiteNews in an earlier interview that he has been asking Eggen to meet with him for more than a year. “And we’ve asked again after we sent him our anti-bullying policy in March. But even though he refuses to sit down with us personally, he’s willing to make threats like this to reporters. That’s just not good management.”
By Tom Olago