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Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.


Estimating the scale of the elite private school giveaway

Every year the BC government provides hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding to private schools, including elite prep schools. Given that BC’s public education system has been severely underfunded for most of the past two decades—and is still failing to adequately support students with special needs—this use of public resources is hard to fathom. BC should eliminate the flow of taxpayer dollars to elite private schools, and redirect the funding to support special needs students.

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SOGI and property tax exemptions

A group of 200 pastors lined up to denounce the province's sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum (SOGI 123).

The curriculum was developed under the previous provincial government and continues to be supported by the current government, the teachers' union, principals' associations, independent and First Nations schools associations.

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September 24, 2018 Newsletter

How you can help end the funding of faith schools in BC

We've just published examples of independent schools in BC that are teaching creationism in science classrooms. These are schools that together receive tens of millions of dollars from the provincial government.

But right now we have an opportunity to push back on this funding.

The BC Legislature's Finance Committee is currently holding public hearings across the province on the 2019 budget. Anyone is welcome to sign up for one of these hearings and speak for five minutes.

A number of these meetings are already full but if you live in Cranbrook, Trail, Nelson, Kamloops or Kelowna, you can sign up to speak this week.

REGISTER TO SPEAK

Let us know if you will be speaking and we'll help you prepare some speaking notes.

Otherwise, you can make a written, audio or video submission and you can complete the committee's survey online. This is a great chance to encourage the committee to put nearly half a billion dollars back in the public education system.

We'll be releasing our own submission to the committee soon.

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BC subsidizes the teaching of creationism in science class

Spend a bit of time looking through the websites of some of BC's independent schools and it's easy to find schools that proudly teach Biblical creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms.

Independent schools that receive public money are required to teach the BC curriculum, which includes the scientific reality of evolution in Grade 7 Science and Life Science 11. However, as we've shown most independent school funding goes to faith schools

The following schools seem to arguably undermine that curriculum by "teaching the controversy," a creationist strategy intended to undermine evolutionary science in American high schools.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Summerland

We've looked at how a few different communities treat religious property tax exemptions in BC and in most of those cases the policies have been long-established. In Summerland earlier this month, its council decided to change its policy.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Greater Victoria

When a journalist from Saanich News reached out for a story on permissive tax exemptions in the District of Saanich, I decided to go through and look up the detailed policies for most of the municipalities around Victoria. Even within a very small region, we're able to see a wide variety of approaches taken by different councils.

Every municipality below grants at least some permissive exemptions for religious properties but how they decide which to provide, and how they report them, varies greatly.

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Fox in the henhouse: Oversight of BC independent schools

The Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools, a department of the Ministry of Education, is responsible for the oversight of independent schools.

Janet Steffenhagen’s thorough reporting in the Vancouver Sun in 2007 found that every inspector of those schools going back to the 1980s was connected to an Evangelical Christian School. This trend has continued through today and it raises the question of why the one office designated to oversee BC's private schools has been run entirely by people coming out of a faith group that accounts for approximately 13% of British Columbia and, as we'll show next week, a fraction of the independent school community.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Kamloops

After releasing the responses we received to our survey of BC municipalities' various approaches to permissive tax exemptions for religious organizations, I spoke to Radio NL in Kamloops about their city's approach.

Kamloops, like most cities in BC, does give permissive tax exemptions to religious properties and doesn't apply a clear public benefits test. However, the local details provide a glimpse into how complex these questions can be across the province.

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Permissive tax exemptions in Vancouver

As British Columbia's largest city, it makes sense for the City of Vancouver to be the first municipality we profile in our Fair Property Tax Exemptions series. However, Vancouver is actually a fascinating case for the way the city council has set its priorities.

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Starting a conversation about permissive exemptions for churches

With an understanding of what a permissive exemption is, it's worth discussing some of the issues that are raised by municipalities granting these exemptions to religious organizations.

Provincial and municipal governments grant exemptions from property taxes as a way to recognize and promote the public benefit of certain institutions. As far back as the Magna Carta, the advancement of religion has been seen as a good in and of itself. This has led to religious properties being granted the statutory exemptions discussed above.

However, as British Columbia becomes increasingly secular, it’s worth questioning this basic assumption. As of 2016, only 27% of British Columbians said they practice a religion or faith and only 11% attend religious services weekly. Despite the emptier pews, churches across BC are still granted automatic exemptions from property taxes.

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