Thursday, 29 March 2012

Far right’s amplified web of deception


Part 2 in a series (more posts to follow)

by Bobbie Saga

An amplified voice of the evangelical far right is leading the charge on Alberta’s education and human rights debate.

To give this more clarity and context, the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) first organized a rally on the steps of the Alberta Legislature March 5, which drew hundreds of protestors. It was reported the parents’ concern is Section 16 of Bill 2 "that enshrines the Alberta Human Rights Act into the Education Act" and infringes "on their right to teach their children what they want."

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, addressed the protestors (the writ was dropped Monday triggering the provincial election).

"What you do at home, your values, you will not be asked to develop any particular curriculum," Lukaszuk said according to Global TV Edmonton. "There is no reason to believe that you will be required to do anything differently than you have up to now. Not only the minister of education, but no ministry of this government will ever, ever venture into interfering with what we do at home, with what we practice at home, and what we believe in that home. That is our private lives and that will be respected."

Not appeased by Lukaszuk’s comments, the AHEA, which openly works in cooperation with another group, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), turned up the political heat. The two followed up by organizing a second rally March 19, set to work lobbying with a letter writing campaign, plus put out calls for people to contact the government.

But the AHEA and the HSLDA are supported in their lobbying efforts by other far right leaning and evangelical groups, including Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) that, for example, put out an e-alert (last updated February 23) about the first protest entitled Political Correctness Gone Mad (Alberta Alrt – Calls Needed Immediately). The alert states:

"The new Education Act (Bill 2) proposed in Alberta will force political correctness on parents in their own homes when teaching their children. Under this powerful new legislation, all homeschooling, including all material and teaching, must meet these requirements. It essentially makes parents subject to the Alberta Human Rights Act when they interact with their own children in their own homes. Furthermore, it requires this communication to promote understanding and respect as set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act: the same Act that has been responsible for repressing virtually all forms of religious expression that have come before the Human Rights Tribunal. How then, is a parent to read the bible to their child, or pray with them, or share any of their own religious beliefs without fearing the political correctness police."

Not by coincidence, no information is given on the CCC site clearly explaining its US roots or its affiliation with Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB). And most references to the infamous PGIB founder and CEO Craig Chandler were removed from the CCC site. His Wiki profile doesn’t do him justice!

Chandler, who founded the CCC, was replaced as National Chairman by Jim Blake who hails from Balzac. What is stated on the CCC site, however, and located on its "Christian Politics" page, is the following (direct quote with an archaic notation of "rhelm" included):

"Christians for too long have bought the lie from secular media and secular education, in short secular propaganda, that Christians should not take their Christian worldview to the rhelm of politics, but the time has come that Christians push back, that Christians understand that we are called to be overcommers in all the world. We are called to be salt and light in all the world. We are called to preach the gospel to all creation, not all creation but the world of politics. Check out these news items for updates on Christians who are not afraid to be involved in politics, as Christians, not by stealth, but unashamedly Christian all the time…"

Further, the CCC also boasts feeds to 20 other groups with evangelical orientations and is often quoted in LifeSite news that has ties to a site calling itself Concerned Christians Canada | No Apologies. And No Apologies is directly linked to another site Stand up for Freedom Canada (SFC), which appears to be a stand-alone "grassroots" lobby against Human Rights Commissions.

The content of Stand up for Freedom Canada is pure propaganda (more on that in my next post), without religious context or content. But as stated implicity on the site – without clarification, including the full name or a link to the affiliated organization – it is connected to the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada. That site has the caption, "Sharing the light of God’s word across our nation." And this group is connected to another group called ChristianGovernance.

But getting back to the Alberta debate, the AHEA and the HSLDA are working in stride with an umbrella group called Association and Citizens for Diversity in Education (ACDE). And this group sent a letter to the provincial government March 19 with an interesting list of 14 evangelical signatories. They include:

Association of Christian Schools International (or the Wikipedia version)
Strathcona Christian Academy Society
MCS Foundation (a registered name)
Millwoods Christian School Society (Calvary Community Church)
REAL Women of Canada (Or the Wikipedia version)
Congregations of the Living Church of God
Grace Point Church of God
Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly
Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church
Olive Tree Fellowship
The Empty Tomb Ministries
Living Waters Christian Academy
Logos Society of Edmonton
Lighthouse Pentecostal Church

Although the Association claims representation of about 80,000, the above list is a fraction of churches in Alberta and represents a very small portion of Alberta’s voting population (3,653,840 latest statistics on total population). The Catholic Church, however, has weighed into the debate.

More problematic is the caption above the letter on the AHEA site. It states "Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association and Citizens for Diversity in Education write Letters." But all links to the supposed letter from the school board are broken or people are redirected to another page on the AHEA site. And the letter is not a feature on the school board’s site. This is not to say, however, the school board has not made its views known to the Alberta government.

Nor do the numbers game and alleged representation negate potential political influence in real and present in ways.

The request appearing on the AHEA site entitled Response from Education Minister and Education Critics has a link on the title that also goes nowhere. It, however, states, "ACDE would welcome a statement from the Ministry of Education and Education Critics from all political parties as to your position on parent’s roles in the education of their children, rationale for the votes you made. Your responses will be posted on our website. If you would like to provide a response, please address it to myself, and I will be sure to have it posted on our website."

The post appeared on the site March 26 – and the initial post was accompanied by a single, prominently featured partisan response from Rob Anderson, Wildrose Party education critic. At the time of this post, no other political party comments were posted to the site.

Again, it gets a little confusing with all the sites and names, but that is not without purpose. (see Part 1 in the series).

See related story on the federal level and the environment:
See article posted by the Alberta Teachers Association
See press release from the Public School Boards Assoication of Alberta

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