On June 29, 2017, the Battle River School Division (BRSD) in Camrose, Alberta, informed Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) that the school will no longer continue as an alternative program within the public school system, effective July 2018.
The dispute arose from a BRSD demand, confirmed in a May 27 email from BRSD chair Laurie Skori, that CCA not read or study “any scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals.”
Since 2009, CCA has served as one of Alberta’s many alternative programs within the public system. These schools provide real diversity in education, and empower parents to choose a program that is especially dedicated to sports, music, art, a foreign language, differing educational philosophies, different religions, etc. In a written legal agreement , BRSD promised to respect the Christian nature of the CCA program as articulated in its School Vision and Purpose Document, which includes a Statement of Faith that commits CCA to reading and studying the whole Bible. BRSD claims that teaching the whole Bible somehow violates the School Act and human rights legislation. BRSD’s claim is false and ridiculous, as explained at length in a June 8 legal warning letter sent to BRSD. BRSD chair Laurie Skori dismissed the June 8 letter as irrelevant, on the same day she received it, without addressing any of the concerns or issues in that letter. Only then did CCA go public with the BRSD’s censorship demand.
BRSD has now agreed to back away from its demand that CCA censor Bible verses that non-Christians might find “offensive.”
However, BRSD has still terminated its agreement with CCA, because CCA refused to sign a gag order that would prevent it from communicating honestly and openly with parents and members of the public. Had CCA signed the so-called “Addendum,” it would have allowed BRSD to engage in further bullying tactics in secret, without trustees being held accountable to parents.
The six documents referenced above were all but ignored by CBC.
In its June 30 news story, CBC made no reference to BRSD’s demand to stop reading and studying “offensive” scriptures, or to BRSD’s subsequent retreat from that position, or to BRSD’s insistence on a gag order that would prevent CCA from communicating openly and honestly with parents and the public. Instead of reporting on relevant facts, CBC fixated its entire coverage on a prior disagreement between CCA and BRSD that had been fully resolved, and (you guessed it!) CBC failed to mention that that dispute was resolved.
CBC bias was equally evident in its June 15 news story, in which CBC also ignored entirely the May 27 demand from BRSD chair Laurie Skori, that CCA not read or study “offensive” Bible verses. Even though Ms. Skori’s written demand had been posted online, CBC quoted Ms. Skori as saying that “the school board does not want or intend to restrict any of the school’s religious teachings” and “the board does not want to get involved in things like that. I think it’s up to the school to decide what things are appropriate or not.” Ms. Skori’s oral assertions are proven untrue by her written demands of May 27 and June 8. CBC is at liberty to report on what people say, but should not blindly or blithely repeat claims that are demonstrably false.
In its June 15 story, CBC quoted Ms. Skori as complaining about “information distributed without our knowledge” and “turning our discussion into a public spectacle,” and claiming further that CCA had “risked our safety.” Yet CBC fails to mention the crucial fact that CCA only went public with the BRSD Bible censorship demand after BRSD had again reiterated its position (on June 8) that “offensive” Bible verses could not be read or taught.
The most glaring example of CBC bias is its headline: “Alberta school board serves notice it will stop operating controversial Christian academy.”
The CBC considers it “controversial” that a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh or Catholic school would refuse a school board demand to refrain from “reading or studying” portions of its sacred scriptures.
The CBC does not consider the school board’s Bible censorship demand to be “controversial,” further demonstrated by the CBC’s failure to even mention this demand in its coverage on June 15 and June 30.
There is nothing “controversial” about Cornerstone Christian Academy insisting on its legal right, under Alberta legislation and under the Charter, to read, study and teach all of the Bible. Even BRSD now agrees with this position. Every other religious school in Alberta would respond exactly the same way, by rejecting school board demands to censor “offensive” verses out of its sacred text.
In response to my request, the CBC has now corrected, for the most part, its June 30 story. But CBC continues to insist that its obviously biased headline will not be changed.
Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents Cornerstone Christian Academy in its legal dispute with the Battle River School Division.