A Christian society in Canada has filed a lawsuit claiming it was punished by a school district for refusing to censor certain biblical references.
The Cornerstone Christian Society of Camrose and three parents of the Cornerstone Christian Academy are suing the Battle River School Division No. 31 after the school's agreement with the public school district was unilaterally terminated earlier this year.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, claims that the Society, which has had held a master agreement with the BRSD to serve as a Christian alternative program since 2009, lost its agreement in June after it initially refused to remove 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from a revised academy "vision and purpose" document and scrub religious teachings that could be deemed offensive.
Although the school and BRSD had instituted a five-year agreement in 2015, when Cornerstone submitted its vision and purpose document in January 2017, the school was told by division officials that they must remove the biblical passage.
"[B]ased on the position of the Minister of Education and Alberta Education, we do not support leaving this reference in the document," the lawsuit quotes Imogene Walsh, BRSD assistant superintendent of business, as writing in an email to the school district on Jan. 30.
The Corinthians passage states: "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
"The Verses reflect Evangelical religious beliefs that BRSD was well aware are foundational to Cornerstone's religious character," the lawsuit explains. "BRSD's request to remove the Verses was a profound interference with the religious character and religious freedoms of the Applicants, as well as the contractual agreement between the parties evidenced by the Master Agreement."
According to lawsuit, the master agreement states that BRSD recognizes that Cornerstone is "an educational setting which operates in accordance with the religious beliefs, core values."
The lawsuit also claims that Laurie Skori, then chair of BRSD Board of Trustees, told the school in an email in May that the concern is about "any actions, teachings or scripture that results in any student, staff member, parent or other stakeholder from being discriminated against based on any protected grounds."
"For example, any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone's sexual orientation, since that appears to be the focus, would not permit the school board to meet with its legal obligation," Skori wrote.
Although Cornerstone eventually agreed to remove the verse from the document in early June, the agreement was official terminated on June 29 and will be effective in June 2018.
"BRSD was not satisfied with the removal of the Verses. Ms. Skori wrote the same day in response to require Cornerstone to make a further concession: that it would not use any Scripture that 'could be considered inappropriate,'" the lawsuit explains.
In a statement, Justice Centre President John Carpay stated that the school district "acted out of anti-religious prejudice and ideological discrimination" and further argued that the district "lost sight of the best interests of the children."
According to the court application, the case will be heard on April 17 at a court in Wetaskiwin. The school is seeking a stay of the school district's decision.
"In attempting to censor the teaching of Biblical sexuality, and in attempting to prevent the Society from communication with staff and parents, BRSD breached its obligations under the Master Agreement, the School Act, the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Carpay added.
In June, Skori explained that the school district was "disappointed" with how Cornerstone went public with the school's request that offensive verses be removed, saying that the situation was turned into a "public spectacle."
"We are now at the center of a firestorm as a result of information distributed without our knowledge, by the Cornerstone Christian School Society board and their partner in this process, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms," Lori was quoted by CBC News as saying. "Hate mail is flowing, misinformation and fear-mongering are widespread. The Cornerstone society has compromised our reputation, risked our safety and broken our trust."
Skori also denied that the school district was trying to restrict religious teachings.
"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," Skori stated.