Education minister orders 2 Christian schools to allow LGBTQ groups

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Education minister orders 2 Christian schools to allow LGBTQ groups

Alberta's education minister is ordering two private Edmonton-area Christian schools to allow students to form gay-straight alliance groups.

Minister David Eggen issued the ministerial order Thursday to Meadows Baptist Academy in Edmonton and Harvest Baptist Academy in Parkland County north of Spruce Grove.

"We are committed to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe schools for all students," Eggen told CBC Edmonton in an emailed statement Thursday. "We will never waver on that. Students in Alberta have the right to establish a gay-straight alliance or queer-straight alliance and to name it as such — it's the law."

The order stems from a lawyer's report Eggen received in November 2016, which was also made public Thursday.

In the report, Edmonton lawyer Dan Scott recommended the minister require the schools to submit updated policies for allowing gay-straight and queer-straight alliances or appoint a trustee to oversee the task if the schools' governing religious society refused.

Scott also recommended the minister revoke the schools' accreditation at the end of the 2017 school year if the schools do not allow for students to form GSAs or QSAs. But he said Eggen must "balance the requirements of the legislation with the rights and needs of the students."

"Cancelling the accreditation of the schools, and thereby shutting down the schools, would be seriously disruptive to the students," the report said. "It would also result in the loss of employment for up to 13 teachers and other related staff."

Pastor Brian Coldwell is the chairman of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, which oversees the schools. Coldwell declined to comment on the ministerial order Thursday, referring all inquiries instead to his legal counsel in Calgary.

Lawyer John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms in Calgary could not be reached by CBC Edmonton Thursday.

"The order demands that they follow Alberta law," Eggen's statement said. "Students deserve to feel supported in their schools and our government will do everything in our power to ensure that."

Read Dan Scott's redacted report below