There is a great public policy debate/conversation happening around religious-based education being publicly funded. The most obvious example is the Separate (aka mostly Catholic) School system in Alberta. That is complicated enough but then add in the faith-based Charter and Private Schools systems with 70% public funding, all justified as “choice.”
Choice isn’t the issue really, discrimination on the basis of religion is more to the point. Public education is, and should be, non-discriminatory on any Charter Rights grounds citizens, and that includes students, enjoy by Law. As a result, the public education system is also secular, and that too is as it should be.
There is a place for private faith-based education institutions but not on the taxpayer’s dollar.
Alberta is a very multi-cultural society and as such it is largely inclusive, respectful and values diversity which is seen as a strength of our Province. Discrimination, bigotry and racism are antithetical to those progressive Alberta values.
We are starting to see these elements rising in some parts of our society. The rhetoric is couched as “parental rights” and “religious freedom” by extremists in the Religious Right. Many of these elements are politically active in the Base of the United Conservative Party in Alberta.
Some of these “Christian” schools are refusing to comply with the law allowing Gay-Straight Alliances clubs in schools and respect for individual student’s right to personal security. These schools have brought these issues before the Alberta Court of Appeal and a decision is pending.
In the meantime, for some richer context and history on these issues, read this Lethbridge Herald Op-ed by Brian Callaghan, the Executive Director of the Alberta Public School Boards Association.