This evening, in response to an amendment made by the Redford government to its Bill 2 on education, I sent a second letter to the Premier’s office by email. Below is the content of this second letter.
March 25, 2012
Dear Premier Redford,
I write this letter to comment upon your government’s recent amendment to Bill 2 (the proposed Education Act), and specifically to express both my appreciation for the spirit of the amendment and my continued frustration with what it fails to address. This letter is a follow-up to my letter of March 14, sent by contact form to your office, and like that letter this is an “open letter” that is being posted publicly on my personal blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages.
(I do note, in passing, that I have yet to receive acknowledgement from your office of receipt of that letter—not even an email form letter. In our electronic age I find that oversight distressing.)
First, I will give credit where credit was due. The proposed amendment to Bill 2 does explicitly recognize the foundational role parents have in the moral and spiritual development of their children. It does explicitly recognize that parents deserve choice in how their children are educated. I appreciate that, as it recognizes that government has no place dictating spiritual beliefs to our children. My primary concern with my last letter was what I perceived as an underlying assumption that government did have the right to make such assertions to children. This amendment goes some way toward alleviating that concern, and may address the concerns of some homeschool families by recognizing the limits of government authority over their lives.
However, I remain concerned that the amendment does not go nearly far enough, for the following three reasons:
1) The amendment singles out “moral and spiritual formation” as being the foundational role of parents. It leaves other formation (physical formation? intellectual formation? social formation?) unspoken, and, I can only assume, left as the role of the state. No, Premier Redford, parental responsibility lies at the foundation of the family, which in turn is the foundation of community and society. Government has no right to limit parental authority, and I can only conclude your amendment does just that by omission.
Real life is not so easily divided, Premier Redford. For a Christian, all of life is lived in service to the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” See, all of life is worship. All of life is spiritual and moral, even the way one studies history or practices carpentry in a shop class. If there is a God in heaven, we are his possessions and everything we say and do in life belongs rightfully to him. Everything we do will either glorify him or seek to give glory that is rightfully his to another, competing authority, whether ourselves or something else.
So Christians cannot so neatly divide their authority over their children with government, nor should they. Our children and their development are a trust from God, not from the state. It may please us to allow the state to assist us with this task in practical ways (or, it may not, and that’s our decision!), but it remains our divinely-given responsibility. Let me explain why.
The Scriptures tell us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) This passage is foundational not only for Christians but for Jews as well. See, parents to teach their children about God not just in the temple or synagogue or the church or even just the home, but in even the mundane and practical times and activities of life (“when you walk along the road… when you lie down”). Moreover, the commandments that this verse refers to dealt with everything from how one was to built a parapet on his roof to landowners who leave pits on their property and whether to allow oxen to eat the grain they tread out. In other words, what parents are to teach their children is God’s teaching on all aspects of life, including and especially those practical life skills that are at the heart of even “secular” education.
So, in short, I remain gravely concerned that your government’s amendment is merely a bone thrown out to appease the critics in hopes of retaining a division of authority over children between home and state. Such a division remains immoral and unbiblical, and Christians must reject it.
2) Another matter that still has me deeply concerned, and which your government’s amendment utterly and shamefully fails to address at all, is the fact that, while the School Act in section 3 had a second paragraph defining what “diversity” and tolerance mean in education (specifically, prohibiting teaching racial superiority and violence against others), the equivalent section in the new Bill 2, Section 16, still only has one paragraph and fails to so define its terms. The entire second paragraph from the original School Act, with its definition of tolerance and diversity, remains absent. In its place now is a statement in the first paragraph that cites the Charter of Rights and the Alberta Human Rights Act. That disturbs me and many other Christians, and here is why.
As has been exhaustively documented by Ezra Levant and many others, Alberta’s Human Rights Commission, which enforces the Human Rights Act, is not a court staffed by lawyers or judges; the people on the panel are not necessarily trained in the law. Worse, they are not bound by precedent–that is, there is no obligation for them to make decisions based on how the law has been interpreted and applied in the past, a situation that basically allows them to do anything.
And, even worse, the Alberta Human Rights Act contains a section (section 3) that allows the Commission to charge a person for saying something publicly that has even the potential to expose a person to contempt–in effect, it outlaws offending anyone. Things like wilfulness or intent or fair comment are excluded as defences. In fact, truthfulness is not even a defence. It’s noteworthy that even the federal government has decided to remove the corresponding section from the Canadian Human Rights Act, but the Alberta government hasn’t.
This section has been used, in one famous case, to prosecute a Red Deer pastor who published a criticism of homosexuality. Not only was he convicted, he was prohibited from teaching on homosexuality publicly–an unacceptable thing for a pastor or any Christian.
By removing the School Act’s old definition of diversity and tolerance, and failing to provide an explicit replacement, the new Bill 2 needs to find one to work with; and so, it points to the Human Rights Act. In so doing, it still places the work of parents in educating their children in a homeschool, and the work of Christian teachers in both the public and private systems, under the jurisdiction of a piece of legislation that has been used to attack Christian beliefs and which is enforced by what I consider to be a “kangaroo court.” This is unacceptable and remains a grave threat to freedom of expression.
Again, this serious problem remains unaddressed by the new amendment and by your government. As long as Christian beliefs remain exposed to judicial attack through the Human Rights Act, I cannot accept Bill 2 and neither can thousands of Christian Albertans.
3) Now, these changes from the original School Act were no accident. It seems to me that the purpose behind rewriting the section on diversity and tolerance arises from a conviction, held by some in your government and in the teaching community, that it falls primarily to the state to foster peace and respect in Alberta society. This attitude is apparent in the Alberta government’s telling refusal, so far, to address the egregious overreach inherent in Section 3 of the Human Rights Act; this attitude is also apparent in this expanded view of diversity inherent in Bill 2.
And while Christians believe the state has a mandate to protect the innocent and guard the peace by punishing crime, it is foolishness itself to ascribe such awesome power to any human institution so as to expect human laws and human educational systems to alter and suppress the deepest and darkest inclinations of human nature. You can’t legislate respect and love, Premier Redford. Only God can do that, because only God has the power to effect change in the human heart.
Racism and hatred are very real and very serious problems in society today. But they are not the result of a lack of education. I have met very highly educated people who were racists and bigots. Osama Bin Laden, I will remind you, had a degree in civil engineering from a prestigious Western school. As long as governments and educators persist in seeing hatred and racism as the product of a lack of education and attempt to legislate or regulate these problems away, the real issue will remain ignored and unresolved.
And that issue is the human rejection of God’s authority: the human insistence on living life as if it is “secular” and can thus be compartmentalized from God’s demands and requirements. That is sin—the rejection of God’s authority. Racism is sin, because it is a denial that other human beings are equally bearers of God’s image. And if it is sin, it is not a lack of education. Hatred is sin, because it is the exaltation of oneself over another when only God deserves such place. And if it is sin, it is not a lack of education.
And since it isn’t a lack of education that’s the problem, Premier Redford, that means that your government’s attempt to address racism and hatred through this Education Act is bound to fail. Only one thing can conquer such hatred and destroy the sin of racism: a new heart, one changed and turned to follow God rather than reject him. That change can only come in response to the preaching of the Gospel, the good news that God is bringing forgiveness and reconciliation to all those who trust in his Son Jesus Christ. It’s the mission of Christ’s church to bring that message to the world, and the duty of parents within the church to teach it to their children.
The best way you can promote the cause of love and respect in Alberta’s society, Premier Redford, is to get out of the way. Change the laws that are being used to repress the freedom of Christians to speak. Stop trying to legislate what you have no power to bring about, and marginalizing the parents and churches whose teaching can actually do what you seek to accomplish.
And, again, please resist the temptation to trust in your power as Premier and as a legislator to effect lasting change. Only the good news of Jesus Christ can do that, and you, too, are invited and commanded to hear and obey. Trust in Christ, not in the state or anything else. That is your only hope. Oh, but what a hope it is—the hope of eternity and glory and of true, lasting peace.