A Christian school southeast of Edmonton is one legal “Hail Mary” away from being forced to shut down.
The Battle River School Division voted last Thursday to close Cornerstone Christian Academy after the school year. The relationship started to fray about a year ago when the board asked the school to stop teaching certain Bible verses that discussed sexuality because they considered them offensive. Board chair Kendall Severson said that was eventually dealt with, but the bigger issue was a lack of cooperation.
“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,” Severson said, pointing to an ongoing legal challenge brought against them from the school society. “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.”
The school wants the courts to stop the closure, arguing the board’s attempts at censoring biblical references in the curriculum are illegal. The case is scheduled to be heard May 17.
“I think there is a great misunderstanding of what faith means in today’s culture,” school society chair Deanna Margel said. “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.”
Parents are already considering their options if the legal fight fails. Gabe Vorhees sends his four children to Cornerstone, and he said his family was happy with the division before it decided to close the school. He said they don’t trust the school division anymore.
“Many different parents (are) doing many different things: some going to homeschooling, some having to drive their kids 40 minutes to 45 minutes away,” Vorhees said. “None of us really want to be part of this school division.”
“This is our kids’ future and it was dashed by a social political belief system. There’s a lot of animosity there, I think it’s internal. We are people of faith and we’re a community of faith and we choose to forgive, but we also have rights.”
If things don’t go their way in court, the school society’s backup plan is to re-open as a private school in the fall. Margel admitted it would be a “busy summer” for the school society because the process involves a lot of paperwork under tight timelines.
Cornerstone teachers also have a choice to make. They are employees of the school division, so staying on at a revamped Cornerstone would mean giving up their jobs with the public school board.