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United Church of Canada denounces Legacy Christian Academy after abuse allegations

Click to play video: 'United Church of Canada supports lawsuit plaintiff'
United Church of Canada supports lawsuit plaintiff
Caitlin Erickson said the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan had reached out to her before sending the statement to see if she was alright with it, which 'meant a lot.' – Nov 25, 2022

A church in Saskatchewan is calling out a church-run school in Saskatoon after a $25-million lawsuit was filed back in August against the school, alleging abuse and sexual assault.

These allegations have not been tested in court.

Living Skies Regional Council, the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan put out a statement saying that it had concerns about the abuse allegations made towards Legacy Christian Academy (LCA) and Mile Two Church, as well as the threats made towards the survivors that have been speaking out.

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“We extend to Ms. Caitlin Erickson, and to all the survivors of Legacy Christian Academy, our respect and gratitude for their courage in naming the abuse,” the statement read.

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“The experiences they have described should never be associated with any place of learning, or with any Christian context. As we said in an earlier statement, we reject the theology and practices surrounding beliefs espoused by the school. We reject transphobic and homophobic beliefs associated with some expressions of Christianity, including Legacy Christian Academy.”

Click to play video: '$25 million lawsuit filed alleging abuse and sexual assault from Sask. school'
$25 million lawsuit filed alleging abuse and sexual assault from Sask. school

Erickson, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a former student of LCA, had come forward about threats being made to her in mid-November.

She showed anonymous emails telling her to “stop talking to the press, if you value your life.”

That same email had a bible verse, Hebrews 12:29, stating “For our God is a consuming fire.”

Her home was also vandalized with spray painted scripture, and after reporting a break-and-enter to her home, her house was destroyed in a fire.

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“We know that the survivors are waiting for possible charges. Past failures to prosecute church perpetrators of violence in residential schools, and other settings, contributes to the continued appearance of the church’s impunity. We reject such impunity,” the church’s statement read.

“We denounce the utter abuse of scripture we have witnessed in the campaign of harassment against Ms. Erickson. To use Hebrews 12:29 as a threat in the course of setting fire to someone’s home is heinous, and has absolutely nothing to do with the tenets of the Christian faith.”

The statement said the church had seen their buildings defaced back in 2020, noting that they felt fear of being targeted, but added that the violence targeting Erickson was much worse.

Click to play video: 'Sask. NDP renews call for more government scrutiny of Legacy Christian Academy'
Sask. NDP renews call for more government scrutiny of Legacy Christian Academy

“The pastor of Mile Two Church is on record as saying in a sermon, “Some of the stories are true. Some of the stories I think are exaggerated. Some of them I don’t know if they’re true or not … We’ve got to trust that the truth is going to come to light and we want the truth to come to light,” the statement read.

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That sermon was given by Brien Johnson, the son of one of the named defendants in the lawsuit, Keith Johnson.

“To the Mile Two Church, we say: out of our own United Church experience from decades of deep and unconscionable involvement in residential schools, we know too well the immense harm that Christian institutions have caused. We will never cease to hold responsibility for that harm,” the statement read.

“We call now on Mile Two Church to accept responsibility for the harms that Saskatoon Legacy Academy has caused in their name. We call on the Mile Two Church to cease denying or minimizing that harm, and to accept the path of repentance.”

Global News reached out to Mile Two Church for a comment, but did not receive a response by deadline.

“We ask the members of Mile Two Church, our siblings in the body of Christ, to reflect on how they are ensuring that truth will come to light. We ask them to reflect on whether they are creating an environment of mistrust or fear that impedes the truth being heard and accepted. We call on them to ensure that their words and actions do not perpetuate a dangerous environment for Ms. Erickson, any other survivors of Legacy Christian Academy, and indeed for any survivors of Christian-based abuse,” the statement read.

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Living Skies Regional Council called for people to donate to Erickson’s fundraiser, as well as any other survivor’s needs as they emerge.

Global News reached out to Erickson, asking her how she was feeling after the harassment and the fire.

“You know, it’s still kind of a day-to-day thing. It’s a very weird feeling still. The kids are getting more settled right now, so that’s kind of what was important, just getting them settled and situated and back into their routines,” Erickson said.

“It’s still just a pretty bizarre feeling, and going between feeling numb and then feeling upset, and kind of back and forth.”

Erickson said the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan had reached out to her before sending the statement to see if she was alright with it.

“That is very comforting. And just the words they had written in their statement were so powerful, and you could just feel he meaning behind it all.”

“It really meant a lot, especially with everything going on right now, having that support,” Erickson added.

She said it was very appropriate for the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan to speak up about Mile Two Church, adding that other religious organizations in the province should follow suit.

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Erickson said she was blown away by the support she’s received from the community as well, noting that she’s had people reach out with messages of encouragement and support.

“It’s really good for the kids to see that, and see that support. So, it’s been very encouraging for our family.”

Darrell Reine, Convenor of the Living Skies Regional Council Executive, said he felt the statement that was released was justifiable.

He noted that his experience with United Church and the legacy of residential schools has caused the church to live with that legacy, tell the truth and work towards reconciliation.

“I think as Christians we should call upon one another to tell these truths, to not hide these things, to not continue the abuse of those that have filed a complaint against us,” Reine said.

He said when one part of the church does wrong, it makes the rest of the church look the same.

“So, the statement is to say this is wrong, this is not right. Our siblings in Christ have made a mistake and they need to take action.”

“We’ve seen a lot in the news lately about the abuses against youth, against the LGBTQ community, against women, and I think we need to start standing up to this sort of stuff as a community,” Reine added.

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– with Files from Global News’ Brooke Kruger and Nathaniel Dove

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