Christian School at Center of Scripture Skirmish Seeks Injunction After Board Votes to Shut It Down

EDMONTON, Alberta — A group comprised of parents whose children attend a Christian school in Alberta, Canada have gone to court seeking an injunction against a recent decision from board members of the local school division to shut down the academy. The school had been in a discussion with the division after officials asked them to keep “offensive” Scriptures out the classroom, a request that resulted in further breakdown as talks continued.

Global News reports that the Battle River Division voted on Thursday to close Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman after the school year ends next month. The academy is considered an alternative program under the public school system.

“I guess it was the unwillingness to work together for a communications protocol on how we communicate with each other and dealing with issues that arise,” Board Chair Kendall Severson told the outlet. “We can’t work together with an organization that’s got legal action against us, and not willing to come together and work on an agreement.”

Severson is referring to a situation that began last year when the division approached the academy to request that officials remove 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from the school’s student handbook.

“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,” the Scripture reads.

“And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

“We asked them to not include it, but perhaps use a different piece of Scripture,” Communications Director Diane Hutchinson told Metro News last June. “There is a lot of love in the word of God. We were concerned about that specific piece of Scripture, given today’s legislation and sensitive environment.”

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She was alluding the addition of homosexuals and transgenders to the 2015 Alberta Human Rights Act.

The academy removed the Scripture as requested, but became concerned when then-Board Chair Laurie Skori advised school officials that “any Scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals should not be read or studied in school.”

She then clarified in another email, “For example: any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone’s sexual orientation.”

“That’s a completely different directive, and it was shocking. Absolutely shocking,” Cornerstone Chair Deanna Margel told the National Post. “You can’t just pick and choose those Scriptures. We need every single word there to challenge us, to call us to greater understanding. It’s just so important.”

She said that she feels the directive is an infringement upon the school’s freedom of religion and speech.

In July, the division terminated its agreement with the school, and efforts to create a new agreement were unsuccessful, mainly due to an addendum that would require academy officials to keep communication confidential.

“The addendum puts the school in the position where if in the future if the school board came out with other illegal demands, then the school would not be able to speak to the public about it and that’s not acceptable,” attorney John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms told the Camrose Canadian.

“It’s sad and unfortunate,” he said. “Both parties were in agreement that the school board had no authority to censor Bible verses, and that should have been the end of it.”

On Thursday, the division board voted to close Cornerstone Christian Academy altogether. The parents’ group has therefore taken the matter to court to stop the closure, and contends that the division can’t tell a Christian entity which Scriptures to use or not use. A hearing is scheduled for May 17.

“There’s been no allegations of educational deficiency or any complaints regarding Cornerstone,” attorney James Kitchen, also with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, told the CBC. “It’s unfortunate, and in fact unlawful, for a school division to accept a school to be an alternative program, a religious alternative program, and then censor and prohibit certain beliefs and religious practices that those religious programs then engage in.”

“I think there is a great misunderstanding of what faith means in today’s culture,” Margel also stated. “I think that what is happening at the school is a good opportunity for people to discuss their different ideas and talk about how we deal with those things.”

“Anybody familiar with the Christian Bible will recognize that there are many, many, many passages of Scripture that are offensive to even those of us who follow Christ,” she said.

If the lawsuit is unsuccessful, the school says its backup plan is to re-open as a private entity.

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