Was pastor encouraged by right-wing allies to say intemperate things that could cost his private schools?

Posted on September 06, 2016, 12:23 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa, where Alberta’s gay-straight alliance law seems destined to be held in the balance. Below: The judgment of Solomon – don’t take the supposedly wise king’s child-care advice if you don’t want a visit from the police and a social worker. Below that: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen and Baptist Pastor Brian Coldwell.

Who will Rev. Brian Coldwell blame if the Alberta government cuts off funding to two private Christian schools he administers for his open and aggressive defiance of a new law requiring all provincially funded schools to permit students to form gay-straight alliances if they wish?

The NDP Government, which the Baptist clergyman has given no choice but to take action or appear to capitulate? Or the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, which seem to have encouraged him to take a defiant stand, then left him to twist in the wind?

SolomonReaders may wonder how it can be said with such confidence Pastor Coldwell was encouraged by those two political parties to vow to break the law so openly the government was left with no option but to defund the Harvest Baptist Academy in Spruce Grove and the Meadows Baptist Academy in Edmonton.

Well, for that, we have Rev. Coldwell’s own persuasive testimony to LifeSiteNews.com, a website associated with ultra-conservative religious views and opposition to reproductive rights. According to an online article published there on Aug. 24, Rev. Coldwell said he was “very disappointed” with the “unwillingness to act” of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties.

After all, Rev. Coldwell explained, “Behind the scenes, they have told us it is up to us to rouse the parents, to get the media on our side and do the job of the opposition.”

“If and when we do, they will be happy to take over and take all the credit,” he continued, on a dissatisfied note.

It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion Rev. Coldwell and possibly others from his church and the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, which runs the two schools, have been working behind the scenes with the two conservative opposition parties to box the NDP government and create a potentially politically embarrassing situation for them.

The plan appears to have been to paint any enforcement of the law as an infringement of parents’ rights and Canadians’ fundamental right to their own religious beliefs. Indeed, Rev. Coldwell and his supporters have already made statements saying just that – although, publicly, representatives of the PC and Wildrose parties have been far cagier.

EggenIt is possible, of course, that Rev. Coldwell misunderstood whatever he was told by the Wildrose and PC parties’ representatives – although his statement seems believable to me, and certainly sounds as if he sincerely believes it. I think we can take his word for it.

It is also possible LifeSiteNews.com got what he said wrong – although, again, this seems unlikely. More than a week has passed since publication of the story and there’s no suggestion he has retracted or clarified anything. When Rev. Coldwell was interviewed, he must have assumed, rightly, that he was speaking to a sympathetic audience.

So there’s no reason to think the story got what Rev. Coldwell said wrong, or that he is wrong about what went on between him and the Wildrose and PC parties.

Nevertheless, the parties’ views about what happened might be a good question for representatives mainstream media organizations, members of the Alberta Legislative Press Gallery with privileged access to politicians from both Opposition parties, to ask party spokespeople about this week. The same questions should probably be asked of PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney’s campaign, which is known to have been talking to a private school advocacy organization on whose board Rev. Coldwell sits.

Meanwhile, the NDP Government has left the door open to the two Baptist academies retaining their public funding, but for that to happen Pastor Coldwell must find a way to step back from the brink and comply with the law.

ColdwellOn Aug. 30, he told the CBC “there is no way under heaven I’m going to allow gay activists to come in here and basically undermine our ministries and our religious freedoms or confuse and corrupt our children.” So perhaps he could say he’s been reassured the intention of the government isn’t to corrupt children, or put parents’ religious freedom at risk.

Still, it would be a significant climb-down for Pastor Coldwell to repent after saying such intemperate things about the government. From this perspective, it appears he himself has been boxed into making statements that benefit two political parties with no interests at heart but their own, certainly not those of the two private schools’ pupils.

It would be quite dangerous for the NDP to back away from enforcing a law that enjoys significant popular backing, including among many moderate conservatives, and for which there is an enthusiastic and vocal support group.

So don’t expect Education Minister David Eggen just to just drop this issue. This isn’t like Bill 6, the NDP’s farm safety legislation, in which one side was energized and the other wasn’t paying attention. Whatever Mr. Eggen does, this potato’s going to stay hot.

Meanwhile, the dispute seems fated to end up before the courts, which will have the difficult job of balancing the right of individuals to practice their religion and the right of all citizens to be safe from bullying and coercion.

Since we know that bullying and violence against LGBTQ children in schools are real phenomena, with serious consequences, this is not a clear-cut constitutional religious freedom case as Rev. Coldwell’s supposed friends on the political right pretend.

Like those who claim they have a fundamental free-speech right to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, Rev. Coldwell’s supporters could find their “religious freedom” curtailed as a result of the balancing act the courts will sooner or later be required to perform.

Courts in North America have no problem restricting the religious freedom of those who believe, on good Biblical authority, that “He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Never mind this view is said to be that of King Solomon, who was reputed to be very wise. If you beat your children, let alone contrive to chop them in two, you can expect a visit from the police and a social worker.

No one, liberal or conservative, was shocked to hear an Indianapolis prosecutor recently say a mother who beat her child with a wire hanger went “beyond these religious instructions” and that preventing child abuse trumps religious freedom. The same thing would happen in Canada in similar circumstances.

Likewise, parents who interpret the Old Testament’s prohibition on eating blood to deny children whose lives may be in danger access to life-saving blood transfusions will usually get little sympathy from the courts no matter how sincere their beliefs.

And woe betide anyone who kills their children because they work on the Sabbath or convert to another religion, barbaric cultural practices the Old Testament commands.

The first thing our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states is that there are limits on all freedoms. This situation is no different.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

13 Comments to: Was pastor encouraged by right-wing allies to say intemperate things that could cost his private schools?

  1. Tom in Ontario

    September 6th, 2016

    ‘He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chaseneth him betimes.”

    Ahhh, the classic King James version of the Holy Bible. We are all children of God. After his remarks, Reverend Coldwell could be in for a right smart rod whuppin’ at the hands of his PC and Wildrose patriarchs, all in the name of love.

  2. Maria

    September 6th, 2016

    The leaders of the Wildrose and PC likely realize that this is a losing proposition they do not want to be associated with, so they tell the pastor to ‘go for it’. As you, David, well state: religious freedom does have it’s limits. It will be interesting to see what the opposition leadership has to say if this matter goes to court.

    • Bob Raynard

      September 6th, 2016

      Actually it is the legislature I will find interesting. Do the Wildrose dare criticize the government if Mr. Eggen decides to cut their funding? If they don’t it will be the ultimate betrayal of the Baptist church and school, yet if they do it will solidify people’s opinion that the Wildrose Party is perfect to lead Alberta into the 20th century, but the 21st? Not so much?

  3. V. Martel

    September 6th, 2016

    These private religious schools (generally) collect $500.00/month/student in their enrollment. That’s right.. $10,000.00/year/student. They should run their schools on that with NO financial input from the Taxpayers. It used to be that the parents were allowed to declare a $10,000.00 charitable contribution on their income tax however Mr. Dinning, as one of his last acts in government took that benefit away. (Naturally, they all blame the NDP Government for this, memories being short.) IMHO if any of the schools are to receive Taxpayer funding they comply with our regulations, otherwise they should subsist on the generous funds their sponsors supply.

    • Chris

      September 6th, 2016

      $500 per month is $6000 per year, not $10000 – assuming the tuition is collected all 12 months.

      • V. Martel

        September 7th, 2016

        2 kids = $1,000./month x 10 months. – $10,000. I apologized further down about my confusion with the 1 vs 2 children.

  4. Martin d'Entremont

    September 6th, 2016

    It would be good if this tempest was actually about the funding of private schools with public money instead of it being muddied by religious freedom. Why are private religious schools funded with tax dollars.

    • Mary

      September 7th, 2016

      Go back in Alberta political history and you will see that it all started in the Ralph Klein, Steve West etc era and from there connect the dots. Now these schools rely on this money. But it should return to the tax credit system which should be the same regardless if you are sending kids to private school or not and that choice is the parents decision and responsibility and should be privately paid for.
      The funding should be reduced yearly to gradually prepare the private schools to self funding under a time frame of 5 years.
      The general public can`t afford to send their kids to a private school but we have to pay for it…. Remember so many have lost jobs and we continue to pay for and can“t afford it for our own kids.. really is this the way it should be? . IMHO there is no sense to this at all. It has to stop.

  5. Valerie M.

    September 6th, 2016

    Editor: oops… I meant to say $5,000.00/year/student. The family I am familiar with have two children and pay $10,000.00/year. Sorry for my confusion. Valerie

  6. Farmer B

    September 7th, 2016

    You might want to read the latest article on the CBC website in which the pastor slams the Wild Rose and PC’s!

    • David Climenhaga

      September 7th, 2016

      For anyone interested, this morning’s CBC story is found here.

  7. Bobbie Saga

    September 11th, 2016

    “Never mind this view is said to be that of King Solomon, who was reputed to be very wise. If you beat your children, let alone contrive to chop them in two, you can expect a visit from the police and a social worker.”

    We had a criminal case out here some years back that touched on this subject. At the client’s insistence, a lawyer attempted to use “The rule of thumb” as a line of defence. Of course, it didn’t fly with the judge.

  8. Ruth Maria Adria

    September 19th, 2016

    The Minister imposes protocol that is unacceptable and even offensive to most Alberta school children and their parents. His guidelines intentionally discriminate thus creating a disparate impact.


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