PHOTOS: The New Testament Baptist Church near Spruce Grove, just west of Edmonton. Below: The vandalized sign, with some of the scrubbed pink spray paint still visible; additional signs on the site promoting the church and school; and administrator Rev. Brian Coldwell and private school advocate Donna Trimble, the latter two shots from the CBC.

The Edmonton-area Baptist church associated with two private schools whose administrator vows they will never comply with the Alberta Government’s policy on LGBTQ student rights appears to be a politically active organization that espouses right-wing ideology unrelated to Christian doctrine.

In addition, the private-school advocacy group defending the schools’ right to continued public funding despite their administrator’s defiance of the law requiring gay-straight alliances to be permitted in all schools where students want them is linked to the church that runs the schools through its board. Rev. Brian Coldwell, who is both pastor of New Testament Baptist Church and chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, is one of the advocacy group’s five governing board members.

In a CBC story Friday, the executive director of Parents for Choice in Education argued public funding for private schools saves taxpayers money – a debatable claim frequently made by private-school supporters. As inferred by the CBC’s reporter, however, Donna Trimble’s comments appear to have been prompted by calls for the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, which runs the two defiant schools in Parkland County west of the city, to lose public funding if it refuses to comply with the GSA law.

The schools have received close to $4.5 million in provincial funding over the past six years, said Duncan Kinney, executive Director of Progress Alberta, which filed a freedom-of-information request to obtain the data. In 2014, according to the Baptist education society’s own financial report, revenue from government amounted to 89 per cent of the revenues supporting the Harvest Baptist Academy in Spruce Grove and the Meadows Baptist Academy in Edmonton.

The fact Rev. Coldwell is one of the five directors of Parents for Choice in Education was not mentioned in the CBC report about the group, which describes itself as an advocate for a “choice-driven education system which recognizes parental authority.”

Parents for Choice in Education also devotes a page on its website to material from Alberta Can’t Wait, the Political Action Committee set up to raise funds for the campaign of social conservative federal MP Jason Kenney to lead the Progressive Conservative Party and merge it with the Opposition Wildrose Party.

The Kenney campaign material distributed by Parents for Choice in Education accuses the NDP Government of “social engineering” – a coded reference to a supposed conspiracy to proselytize young people to take up alternative lifestyles – and attacks Education Minister David Eggen, who has stated repeatedly that the law on GSAs must be obeyed.

While claiming to be non-partisan, Parents for Choice “had a board director recently meet with Jason Kenney and she sensed that his camp has taken the time to educate themselves on the issues and is in support of parent choice,” a commentary accompanying the Alberta Can’t Wait statement approvingly noted.

As to the New Testament Baptist Church’s political point of view, which takes a decidedly Old Testament direction on this issue at least, it was quite clearly set out a news release published by the church on July 4 and signed by Rev. Coldwell. The statement was released after vandals defaced a large political sign in front of the church that called for the government to amend legislation, since passed, requiring schools to allow gay-straight alliances, diversity clubs and anti-bullying clubs.

Police described the spray painting – which amended the words “Protect parent rights & religious freedom” to “Protect LGBTQ kids and end bigotry” – as mischief. Rev. Coldwell, however, argued it was “a hate crime and religious persecution.”

Rev. Coldwell’s statement to media went on to claim “anti-Christian GSA clubs” are part of “a larger global conspiracy involving radical progressive BIG governments and LGBTQ activists that are demanding cultural change to reengineer society and impose their liberal secular values on all citizens.”

“Their key agenda is to promote their ideology and indoctrinate our children,” said the news release, which may be read it its entirety here.

Traditionally, Christian doctrine does not concern itself with such questions as the size of government, advising Christians, in the words of Jesus, to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Describing such actions as the vandals’ pink spray paint and the refusal of several law societies to grant accreditation to the evangelical Trinity Western University law school because of the institution’s policy on the lifestyles of its students as further evidence of persecution, Rev. Coldwell argued “the political left is seeking to impose their state sponsored liberal secular values and the rainbow religion to indoctrinate our young innocent children.”

Rev. Coldwell’s statement also suggests the Ontario government’s “radical sex education” curriculum is intended to confuse and corrupt young people.

While mainstream media coverage of the schools’ defiance of the law and Rev. Coldwell’s efforts to frame the issue as one of religious freedom trampled by big government has been extensive, no news organization seems to have explored the sponsoring church’s extreme theo-con political views or the connections among the groups and individuals involved and the politicians who encourage them.

By comparison, media coverage of the petition organized by Calgary gay activist Dave Beninger calling for schools that refuse to follow public rules to be denied public dollars has been unenthusiastic. Mr. Beninger said yesterday more than 1,000 people have now signed his petition.

Despite calls for limits on education funds for schools that break the law, no one yet seems to have demanded an end to tax-free status for churches that actively engage in political agitation.

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  1. My, my! The gloves come off and the radical right are showing their true colors (and not pink!). Seems like the last defenders of decency and “our way of life” might actually be trying to justify discrimination and bigotry. The lines between church and state have become rather blurry, wouldn’t you say? Not a place I would want ANY of my tax dollars going to.

    1. re: “Not a place I would want ANY of my tax dollars going to.”

      The citizenry’s tax dollars, that make up most of the public purse, would appear to be funding ‘pray-away-the-gay conversion therapy’.

      excerpt: ‘”There’s many people that have been delivered from that type of lifestyle through the power of the gospel,” said Coldwell.”

      And from Progress Alberta’s newsletter available here

      excerpt: And Coldwell seems to endorse pray-away-the-gay conversion therapy. It’s worth pointing out that conversion therapy has been banned in places like California and Ontario.

      He said if a student came looking for help they would use the gospel and Christian counseling.’

  2. So, let us ponder… If a fundamentalist Islamic private school were to blatantly defy the Minister on this, and to openly bar LGBTQ students from its halls, would it be accused of (to coin a phrase) a “barbaric cultural practice”? And yet, it’s OK for this fundamentalist Christian denomination to act exactly the same way? These social conservatives clearly practice favouritism towards self-proclaimed “Christians” in the area of the intersection of private religious beliefs and public education: they allow fundamentalist Christian churches to get away with actions that they would strenuously object to were they taken by non-Christians.

    It’s like all the hullabaloo about religious headgear and modest attire worn by observant Muslim women, and yet we never see any hint of protest against the imposition of certain dress standards by some Anabaptist denominations that are prominent here on the Prairies. (To be clear, I have no objection to hijabs or niqabs, nor to Mennonite or Hutterite headscarves; it’s just that you can’t logically advocate banning one without banning the other, since they exist because of parallel views towards how women and girls dress in public).

    As Journal columnist Paula Simons observed in the weekly The Press Gallery podcast, these schools and the church that runs them are perfectly free to preach whatever they want, but not while they’re accepting taxpayer dollars to operate. The taxpayer pays the piper, so the taxpayer gets to call the tune, and this tune must be accepting of LGBTQ rights.

  3. so what it’s all about?
    mr. Climenhaga, when i agree on topic that private enterprise, be it education, healthcare, manufacturing or service, shouldn’t be funded from public assets, on the rest points it seems you had ignored our fundamental values such like right of choice, freedom of speech and expression. if minority of society, which represented LGBTQ community has such rights, the rest of society has no less of same rights. and that’s really strange, why government got involved in this matter at all, forcefully trying to push majority to accept something, what isn’t socially acceptable for them.

  4. “Would Jesus Discriminate?” Here is an interesting Biblical interpretation including sections on ‘Biblical evidence’ and ‘Further study.’ “Jesus said some are born gay….a discussion re: Matthew 19: 10-12”
    Here is also some info on Immanuel Christian Middle/High School in Lethbridge, Alberta which is partly funded with government funds. They also state that they “follow the guidelines of Alberta Education with respect to finances and policies.” And, even with some government funding, parents who send their children to this school have to bear some of the cost. We know of folks who are now considereing, even this, to be too much of a financial burden and are sending their kids to public schools instead.

    1. Wrong. In Matthew 19:12, Jesus mentions eunuchs in the context of whether it is good to marry. He says, “There are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Jesus identifies three types of “eunuchs” here: natural eunuchs (“born that way”), forced eunuchs (“made eunuchs by others”), and voluntary eunuchs (“those who choose”).

      Natural eunuchs include those who are born with a physical defect, but they also comprise those who are born with no real desire for marriage or sex. Forced eunuchs are those who have been castrated for whatever reason. Voluntary eunuchs are those who, in order to better serve the Lord in some capacity, choose to forego marriage. God calls some people to remain single (and therefore celibate). Paul speaks of those who serve the Lord in their unmarried state in 1 Corinthians 7:7—9.

      Some gay groups argue that Jesus was referring to homosexuals when He mentioned eunuchs who were “born that way.” However, the Bible never uses the words homosexual and eunuch interchangeably. Furthermore, eunuchs are never referred to in Scripture as being in sin, while homosexuality is universally condemned in both the Old and New Testaments.

      1. This conversation illustrates the fundamental (as it were) problem with Christian scripture. To wit: It is often not at all clear what it means, so in such cases anyone can say it means anything they like. There is no mention of homosexuality in the Gospels, and in the New Testament only references that someone says means what they say it means. It obviously wasn’t a big issue to Jesus. I very much doubt it’s a big issue to God, who most certainly doesn’t care which washroom you use as long as you wash your hands on the way out. As for the Old Testament, well, it certainly has a clear and strong point of view on this topic, as it does on working on the Sabbath, being rude to your parents and changing religion. The penalty is always the same. As I have asked many times before in this space, why do supposed Biblical literalists ignore most of the OT’s hard and fast rules, but stick with the ones involving sexual practices?

  5. I hold the opinion that NO private school of any stripe should receive public money. Tax money shpuld go to public schools only, schools that are not free to choose who attends by the way.

    1. Well, private schools do like to call themselves ‘independent ‘ schools, so removing their government funding would give them the opportunity to be truly independent!

      1. re: give them the opportunity to be truly independent!

        This comment is a great ‘hoist on their own petard’ reply to these sanctimonious ‘independent’ parasites on the public purse.
        Right on!
        Well said. Well said.

  6. Now that David has shown us the Jason Kenney connection (thanks for another great column, David) it does make me wonder what is going on politically. Is the school trying to goad the government into cutting off the schools’ funding? If so, to what political end? I can’t imagine the NPD would lose much political support for cutting off the funding; I assume pretty much everyone involved with the school leans to the right anyway.

    1. re: ‘If so, to what political end?’

      Here’s my guess as to one of the political ends they have in mind: Pushing back on NDP right now helps Kenney’s chances to win PC leadership and then dissolve the PCs into a ‘lake of fire’ merged conservative party that is dominated by social conservatives.

      1. Hi Sam,

        If being really ticked off qualified someone to vote more than once I would be totally on board with your theory. However, I think that people involved with the church and school already feel motivated enough to cast their only vote as it is. That said, my gut really feels like there is some kind of political motivation going on as well. I suppose it could be to give them license to say, “they came after our religion already, you could be next” which was essentially what you suggested.

    2. I agree – something is going on; there’s an agenda for this showdown. They WANT it. Harvest will be over soon (if the weather cooperates) so the social conservatives and their backers can begin staging protests. I wonder if there is some major legislation the NDP intends to introduce this fall that will be ignored by the media as they follow small but raucous education protests? These slimy operatives did the same thing last fall when the NDP introduced their bold climate-change plan. Or does this group know their corporate friends will lose at the November court hearing on the legitimacy of the PPA “Enron” amendment and want that silenced? I hope the NDP doesn’t fall into a trap.

      1. I just had a thought regarding Kenney’s involvement with these private religious schools, together with his Catholic ties. The Catholic School Boards are also trying to get out of following the Minister’s directive, but are using a more discrete method – vague and unclear language in their policy. Perhaps Kenney and other social-conservative, political operatives hope to twist this issue and whip up fear with Catholic parents. Outrage could be huge if they could incite the Catholics and the evangelicals.

        Hopefully, whatever distractions they cook up through this or other issues, does not deter the NDP from continuing with their progressive agenda.

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