Attacking faith-based institutions for upholding codes of conduct ignores the Charter, violates the spirit of pluralism, and risks undermining religious freedom, argues lawyer Barry W. Bussey.
CBC News “Go Public” ran a story recently about the “dark secret” of religious schools. Initially, the story got a lot of attention, but was then swept away as the SNC-Lavalin scandal took on new life with Minister Jane Philpott’s resignation from the federal cabinet. Nevertheless, the “dark secret” of the Surrey Christian School in B.C. managed to ignite a social media frenzy.
Thousands of Canadians took umbrage at the “discriminatory” nature of religious schools receiving government money while requiring teachers and staff abide by the schools’ code of conduct.
Three points come to mind that need to be addressed. First, this is not a “dark” secret; second, this is not a “secret;” finally, the government funding argument is a red herring.
The notion of exposing a “dark” secret suggests there is something sinister about a religious community establishing a school in accordance with its religious teachings. One cannot help but notice the unease – even outright aversion – expressed by many commentators against Christian institutions. Those of us who have committed our lives to working in the Christian charitable sector have no choice but to develop a thick skin as we continue to minister. Indeed, given our faith’s high expectations, it is hardly surprising that, when we fail, we are harshly judged not only by ourselves but by the public.
It is simply untrue, however, to imply that Christian schools are “dark” because they expect staff to abide by the contracts they voluntarily sign. Rather than dark, it is luminescent.