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?

Readers 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, 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.

It 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 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.

On 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

Join the Conversation


  1. ‘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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. “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.

  5. I think only a demon-possessed individual would write such an article. David, you obviously know nothing about the Bible and spout nothing but lies. Do you think somehow you will escape the judgement of God, as you spew your hatred towards Him and His people. Maybe have a gander over to Rom. 2:1-5 and be enlightened. It reads: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;”

    1. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5. DJC

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.