(For those outside Alberta, please don’t ignore this action update. Manitoba is working on similar guidelines, and other provinces are likely to follow.)
In less than one year, Alberta has transitioned from a province with an outstanding reputation for upholding parental authority in education to becoming one of the most oppressive jurisdictions in North America. Christian schools are now being told to adopt policies and procedures by March 31st which directly violate their faith and promote radical ideologies. If the province does not change its approach, Christian parents and schools will have to either compromise their faith or make a principled stand against the province.
Basic Talking Points
The following four points encapsulate our basic concerns about the Alberta education minister’s desire to make all schools celebrate his radical gender politics and his unchristian views of sexuality.
- ludicrous overreach: the new policies and guidelines from the education minister are so beyond the pale that even public schools are pushing back. See below for many examples of the extreme nature of these guidelines.
- parental rights undermined: the new policies and guidelines drive a wedge between parents and children and actively seek to undermine this very important relationship.
- palpable harm to children: the evidence from medical experts is clear – encouraging or reinforcing gender dysphoria, particularly with pre-pubescent children, is harmful to the child and virtually guarantees a life of emotional and psychological suffering. The exact students the State pretends to help are the ones most harmed by these policies. These policies also gamble with child abuse by downplaying any risks associated with mixing boys and girls in the same change rooms, washrooms and sports teams.
- religious and associational liberty attacked: the new policies and guidelines violate the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of religion (including the right of religious institutions to remain true to their faith commitments without having to teach or celebrate as true and good something fundamentally at odds with their religious convictions). The policies and guidelines also violate the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of association (including the right of parents to come together for a legitimate common cause and to carry out that cause according to their shared principles without State interference).
We urge our readers and supporters in Alberta to communicate these points to their elected representatives boldly, but also respectfully. Also, though many of you are parents who send your children to an independent school, speak as a concerned citizen and as parent but not on behalf of your school (leave that to your local school board).
In order to get the full story of what is going on, what is at stake, and what you can do, please read on.
On January 13, the province of Alberta made public its “Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions”. These guidelines are being forced on all Alberta schools, including independent Christian schools. By March 31st, these schools must finalize their own policies and procedures in keeping with Alberta’s new “diverse gender identities” guidelines. These guidelines flow from Bill 10 which was passed by the provincial government just before the election in 2015, with support from the NDP, PC, and Wildrose parties. That bill required all schools to allow clubs and activities (including gay-straight alliance clubs in faith-based schools) as soon as just one student requests it. The aim of Bill 10 was purportedly to promote safe and caring learning environments. But the latest guidelines go far beyond Bill 10 (as detailed further below). The new Alberta government is now using these guidelines as the means to ensure that all Alberta schools promote a particularly non-Christian view of homosexuality and transgenderism while significantly diminishing parental authority.
Guidelines Binding on Private Schools
The guidelines specify that they are intended for “all school authorities” and a footnote explains that this includes “charter schools and private schools” (page 1). It later adds, “it is important that these policies, regulations and procedures explicitly address the authority’s responsibility as it relates to students and staff who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, queer, questioning, and/or gender-diverse and reflect the best practices as outlined in these guidelines” (page 2). In other words, the Alberta government wants these guidelines to be the new standard for how all Alberta schools must approach matters relating to sexuality and gender.
Some argue that although the Minister of Education may want this, it is not required because the guidelines say at one point that school authorities are advised to use these best practices. It is also evident that the guidelines go far beyond what was passed into law last year. However, from private correspondence between the Education Minister and the Alberta private school principals, it is evident that the Minister is asking all schools to create new policies and have them to him by March 31st for his review. He expects independent Christian schools to comply. In the coming weeks we hope to better understand the implications should schools choose to not comply.
What does the Bible teach on these issues?
- God created mankind as male and female, equal in dignity and worth, yet with distinct and complementary roles. Men and women are to dress and behave in accordance with their biological sex. (Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 21-24; Psalm 139:13-16; Deuteronomy 22:5; Isaiah 43:6-7; Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 2:12-14)
- God’s institution of marriage, a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, is the sole environment within which sexual activity is permitted, and is the context in which children are to be raised. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 5:27-32; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Jude 7)
- Communication with or about those with whom we disagree should be loving and respectful, never in anger or hatred. This does not preclude honest, forthright communication about noncompliance with God’s law. (Leviticus 19:17-18; Proverbs 15:1; Matthew 18:15-20; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37; Romans 8:20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 10:5; Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 5:20; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
- All human authority is delegated from God, who graciously instituted various spheres of authority for the benefit of individuals and society. Delegated responsibilities are best dealt with at the appropriate level. Parents are primarily responsible for the education and upbringing of their children. (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 78:1-8; Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20)
- We ought to comply with the authority of civil government in matters that would not lead us into conflict with God’s commands. Obedience to God’s law supersedes subjection to human authority. (Matthew 22:21; Acts 5:29; Romans 13; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:17)
Guidelines Violate Biblical Principles and Fundamental Freedoms
The guidelines from the education minister are rooted in a secular – even pagan – understanding of sexuality, gender, and parental authority and rely on the strong arm of the State to force parents and schools to promote this ideology. Not only do they violate Scriptural norms, they also violate Canada’s constitution which protects freedom of association (e.g. parents who come together to form independent schools according to a shared value system) and freedom of religion. Provincial law must conform to constitutional law. This was explicitly upheld by the Supreme Court in its Loyola decision in early 2015.
Some of the many explicit violations include:
- “Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” (page 3). What God says about sexuality and gender must be dismissed, according to these guidelines. Human autonomy trumps. This clearly violates Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” As Creator, God determines gender and sexuality. This is clearly confirmed in the laws of human biology – there are only two sexes (male and female) and it is impossible to change one’s sexual identity as it is wired into every strand of DNA.
- “All students and staff with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions…have the right to be open about who they are, including expressing their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression without fear of unwanted consequences” (page 3). This conflicts with numerous biblical principles, including the fifth commandment which requires children to honour their parents and the seventh commandment which forbids adultery (and by extension, all sexual immorality).
- “All students and staff with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions…are actively included in the collaborative decision-making process that supports the implementation of these best practice guidelines” (page 3). This violates the constitutionally protected freedom of association. Parents associate to form schools and delegate authority to teacher and administrators to teach their children in a manner consistent with their faith or worldview. Children are not the authorities in this process, nor are “experts” from outside special interest groups. There are numerous places in these guidelines where children are raised up to be the authorities.
- “No student or family should be referred to programs which purport to ‘fix,’ ‘change’ or ‘repair’ a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” (page 5). Scripture makes it clear that our human nature is depraved and must be re-oriented to line up with God’s calling for us. That includes reflecting the binary sexes that he designed and that ultimately image God (Genesis 1:27). Scripture is emphatic that some sexual activities violate God’s will for humanity (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, etc.). Out of love for our neighbour, we should be helping individuals orient their full lives, including their sexuality, in a way that conforms with the way God designed. This principle is especially true within the context of a community of faith.
- “All individuals have the right to be addressed by their chosen name and to choose pronouns that align with their gender identity and/or gender expression” (page 5). Allowing students to choose their own name and pronouns violates the Scriptural doctrine that it is God who creates humanity as male or female. God determines our gender. Gender dysphoria is one of many examples of the effects of the fall into sin and the brokenness that results. The answer is not to promote dysphoria but to help students live according to the gender given by God.
- “In keeping with the principles of self-identification, it is important to: … [have] a student’s explicit permission before disclosing information related to the student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression to peers, parents, guardians or other adults in their lives.” (page 6) In other words, parents are only allowed to be informed about how their child decides to identify if the student gives permission to the school. The school (through the power of the State) now can interfere in the parent-child relationship, even without the parent’s knowledge or consent. This is a direct violation of parental authority.
- “A flexible and gender-inclusive dress code recognizes that all students and staff have the right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression.” (page 7) This violates the clear distinction that God gives to the roles of men and women. For example, Deuteronomy 22:5 says that “a woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” It also violates freedom of religion, as parents have the authority to raise their children in a manner consistent with their faith, including as it relates to their dress code. When parents join together to educate their children (freedom of association), their freedom of religion is not forfeited.
- “Reduce gender-segregated activities to the greatest extent possible. This increases opportunities to respect students’ full expression of who they are and allows them to play, learn, dress, present and express themselves in flexible and diverse ways that are congruent with their gender identity or gender expression” (page 7). Not only does this violate the biblical distinctions between the roles of males and females, it also is a direction violation of what the sciences teach us about the differences between the two genders and the importance of reflecting this in how boys and girls are educated. Even secular social scientists should balk at this guideline.
- “Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and changeroom facilities that are congruent with their gender identity” (page 9). The guidelines stipulate numerous requirements to enforce this, such as requiring a non-gender washroom in all schools and allowing students to determine for themselves which washroom to use. Among many other ways in which this violates Scripture, it undermines the second greatest commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves by making children vulnerable to exploitation. Victims of sexual abuse recognize this is a recipe for abuse and harm.
- “School authorities develop and maintain mutually supportive relationships with a variety of sexual and gender minority groups who can share resources and expertise and contribute to the ongoing evolution of welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that foster diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.” (page 11) In other words, a private Reformed Christian school should go to homosexual activist organizations like EGALE (listed on page 18 of the guidelines as one of the sources of authority) to direct their policies. This is another violation of freedom of association and religion.
- “Students understand they have the right to establish a voluntary student organization or lead an activity to promote a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that promotes diversity, including gay-straight or queer-straight alliances” (page 13). This comes directly from Bill 10 (introduced and passed by the PC government with support from the Wildrose and NDP). It requires every school to support gay-straight alliance clubs when even just one student requests it.
- “School forms, websites, letters, and other communications use non-gendered and inclusive language (e.g., parents/guardians, caregivers, families, partners, “student” or “their” instead of Mr., Ms., Mrs., mother, father, him, her, etc.).” (page 14) The State now has authority to rewrite the basic meaning of words and language. This begs the question whether schools are also supposed to change the Bible to ensure that God is identified as both a father and a mother (or neither). Regardless of how far it goes, this guideline directly violates Scripture’s clear distinction between the sexes.
- “School and school authority leaders anticipate, support and value staff diversity, including diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” (page 15). In other words, Christian schools are not only expected to allow teachers who promote non-biblical sexual lifestyles, they are mandated to do so.
If you read through the guidelines you will discover many more examples, but by now it should be clear that these guidelines intentionally undermine Christian principles and violate freedom of religion and freedom of association.
How can we proceed? TAKE ACTION!
The Minister of Education has notified all principals of private schools that they must have new and/or updated policies, procedures, and regulations completed and shared with him by March 31st for his review. These policies must be in keeping with these guidelines. Now is the time to take a stand! The Alberta Legislature needs to be inundated with firm but respectful calls to drop these guidelines and respect parental authority.
ARPA Canada urges the following action:
- 1) Send one of five EasyMail letters here. It will go to your MLA, the Education Minister, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition.
- Letter 1 Uphold parental authority
- Letter 2 Uphold freedom of religion
- Letter 3 Uphold freedom of association
- Letter 4 Don’t promote gender confusion
- Blank EasyMail – draft your own message using talking points from this article
- Phone your MLA and share your concerns, urging him or her to communicate these concerns to their caucus and to the Minister of Education. Their contact information is here.
- Get a couple friends or family together and request a meeting with your MLA to share your concerns, being sure to ask what he or she will do to encourage the government to change the law and remove the guidelines.
- Write letters to your local paper and encourage others to do the same. It’s become clear that the vast majority of Albertans are pretty outraged by these radical steps. Even certain public school boards are taking a stand against these dangerous policies! We need to add our voices to the public conversation in order to make sure our message of concern continues to be projected.
- We implore all Christians in Canada to pray for a softening of hearts within the Alberta government and all those in authority over us. Please also pray that schools and parents will maintain a principled stand and that our freedom to instruct our children in the fear of the LORD will continue.
We recognize that a legal challenge may have to be launched against the province should the Education Minister be unmoved by the concerns of thousands of parents across this province. However, legal action should only be undertaken if the province shows it is unwilling to listen to our concerns. Please take the opportunity to speak up while changes can still be made!
Please share this email or the article on our website (also via social media) and urge others to action.
Thank you for taking a principled stand for what is right.
- ARPA Canada’s factum to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Loyola case.
- The Supreme Court’s Loyola decision.
- More analysis on Loyola and its implications for Christian education.
- A bold op-ed by John Carpay on Alberta’s new gender utopia.
- Links to a truly compassionate, Biblical response to the gender identity issue.
- An informative video on the public policy implications of enshrining so-called “transgender rights” into law.
- A discussion between ARPA Canada’s executive director and legal counsel about Bill 10 in Alberta.
- For more on provincial bans on reparative therapy.
- (note that ARPA Canada’s next Respectfully Submitted policy report will be on the issue of gender identity. Once released, it will be linked here too.)