EDMONTON, Alberta, February 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Under Alberta’s new Education Act, homeschoolers and faith-based schools will not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful as part of their academic program, says the spokesperson for Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.
“Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening.
“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” she added.
Reacting to the remarks, Paul Faris of the Home School Legal Defence Association said the Ministry of Education is “clearly signaling that they are in fact planning to violate the private conversations families have in their own homes.”
“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” a government spokesperson told LifeSiteNews.
“A government that seeks that sort of control over our personal lives should be feared and opposed,” he added.
The HSLDA and other homeschooling groups warned this week that the new Alberta Education Act, which was re-tabled by Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative government on Feb. 14th to replace the existing School Act, threatens to mandate “diversity” education in all schools, including home schools.
Section 16 of the new legislation restates the current School Act’s requirement that schools “reflect the diverse nature” of Alberta in their curriculum, but it adds that they must also “honour and respect” the controversial Alberta Human Rights Act that has been used to target Christians with traditional beliefs on homosexuality. ‘School’ is defined to include homeschoolers and private schools in addition to publicly funded school boards.
McColl emphasized that homeschoolers were already included in the current definition of ‘school’ in the School Act, going back to 1988 or longer. And Section 16, she said, “is specifically with regards to programs, courses, and instructional materials.”
According to McColl, Christian homeschooling families can continue to impart Biblical teachings on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.”
“What they want to do about their ideology elsewhere, that’s their family business. But a fundamental nature of our society is to respect diversity,” she added.
Pressed about what the precise distinction is between homeschoolers’ instruction and their family life, McColl said the question involved “real nuances” and she would have to get back with specifics.
But in a second interview Wednesday evening, McColl said the government “won’t speculate” about particular examples, and explained that she had not yet gotten a “straight answer” on what exactly constitutes “disrespect.” She did say that families “can’t be hatemongering, if you will.”
In the first interview, she justified the government’s position by pointing to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Quebec government’s refusal to exempt families from its controversial ethics and religious culture program. That program, which aims to present the spectrum of world religions and lifestyle choices from a “neutral” stance, is required of all students, including homeschoolers.
“Just last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada released a unanimous decision on – now it’s S.L. v. the Commission scolare des Chênes 2012 – and that’s the same, section 16 has to apply to everyone, including home education families,” she said.
Pro-family observers warned that the ruling risked emboldening other provincial governments in their effort to impose “diversity” programs. The last two years have seen major battles in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and now Alberta over the increasing normalization of homosexuality in the schools.
The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling did not specifically address homeschooling, however, and left the door open to further court challenges. The court argued that the Quebec family seeking the exemption had simply failed to meet the burden of proof necessary to show that their children’s participation in the course would impede the parents’ ability to raise the children in their Catholic faith.
Patty Marler, government liaison for the Alberta Home Education Association, said she was surprised at the Ministry’s straightforwardness, and questioned how they are going to be able to draw the line between school time and family time.
“We educate our children all the time, and that’s just the way we live. It’s a lifestyle,” she said. “Making that distinction between the times when we’re homeschooling and when we’re just living is really hard to do.”
“Throw in the fact that I do use the Bible as part of my curriculum and now I’m very blatantly going to be teaching stuff that will be against [the human rights act],” she said.
Marler pointed out that the issue has direct implications on how families teach their children about marriage because the Alberta Human Rights Act was amended in 2009 to define marriage as between two “persons” instead of a man and a woman. “When I read Genesis and it talks about marriage being one man in union with one woman, I am very, very clearly opposing the human rights act that says it’s one person marrying another person,” she said.
According to Faris, the issue with McColl’s statements “isn’t about sexuality or anything else on the gay issue, it’s about the government trying to control how we teach our own children in our own homes.”
He said her comments are “particularly interesting in light of the - at the very least - misleading information that a lot of homeschoolers have been getting when they’re calling the Minister’s office, saying ‘Look, there’s no changes here. We’re not going to do anything differently’, and other things like that.”
“The long arm of the government wants to reach into family’s homes and control what they teach to their own children in their own homes about religion, sexuality, and morality,” he said. “These are not the words of a government that is friendly to homeschooling or to parental freedom.”
The Progressive Conservative government has 67 of the 83 seats in the province’s legislature, so the bill’s passage is essentially assured. But an election is imminent and the new right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party is expected to have a strong showing. A Forum Research poll last week showed the upstart party polling at 30% behind the government’s 37%.
The Home School Legal Defence Association is calling on Alberta citizens to contact the Education Minister and their elected representatives.