Canadian Christian school's gender acceptance club gains mixed reactions

A Christian school in Sherwood Park has earned mixed reactions of appreciation and ire from parents, teachers and board members after it established a gender acceptance club in its campus to comply with Canada's laws.

(REUTERS / Edgard Garrido)High heel shoes are seen on a rainbow flag during a protest by the LGBT community against violence against transgenders outside Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, Mexico, November 13, 2016.

In November, the boards overseeing Strathcona Christian Academy sent a letter to parents informing them about the formation of a Sexual and Gender Acceptance club at the school. The Strathcona Christian Academy Society board and the Sherwood Park Alliance Church elder board had advised the principal to follow the law requiring the presence of a gay-straight support group at the request of a student, the Edmonton Sun details.

However, the letter assured parents that their children will continue to receive Bible-based teaching and guidance on sexual union and marriage. The letter communicated the school's preference for support groups that do not target "a specific group of students."

"Be assured that instruction and guidance within our schools will continue to privilege the conviction that God's original intent was a sexual union reserved for full expression within the context of a marriage covenant relationship between a man and a woman," the letter said.

For 16-year-old Brooklyn Sturroch, the creation of the gender acceptance club in the Christian school will help students express their true identity. Her father, Bruce Audley, was also delighted by the news but said the content of the letter regarding traditional teaching on marriage mocks the message being communicated to the parents.

Bill 10, an amendment to the Alberta Human Rights Act and School Act, aims to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The bill, which gained the support of all parties, also allowed LGBTQ students to form their own support groups at their respective schools.

Meanwhile, two Christian private schools in Alberta have refused to comply with the new LGBTQ policy. Pastor Brian Coldwell, the chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, said Education Minister David Eggen does not have the "dictatorial power" to let gay activists enter the schools and undermine their religious freedom, CBC News reported in August.

In an open letter to Alberta students, Eggen said students from the gay community have the right to form their own support clubs and to use washrooms that correspond to their gender identity. However, Pastor Coldwell said students who do not agree with their school's conservative Christian values could choose to enroll in other schools.