Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.
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.
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
This has been a busy week.
On Tuesday, we learned that Trinity Western University is making its controversial Community Covenant voluntary for students this fall. This follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that law societies in BC and Ontario were justified in refusing to recognizing a proposed law school at TWU due to the discriminatory nature of this Covenant. The school plans to maintain the restrictions for staff and faculty and they are also required to sign a Statement of Faith that offends any notion of academic freedom at the school.
On Wednesday, the federal government seemed to talk out both sides of their mouth as they announced plans to repeal restrictions on the so-called political activities of charities, while at the same time announcing that they intended to defend the rules in court. The repeal of these rules is long overdue and will hopefully be accompanied by a legal definition of charity that ends the automatic assumption that religious groups are inherently beneficial to the public.
In addition to that, at last Monday's board meeting (minutes are available online for current members) the Board approved a thorough issues summary that brings together the many positions the BCHA has taken and made it easier for you to become a member through a monthly donation.Read more