Vande Kraatz holds a copy of a petition asking the government to investigate whether funding is being unfairly assigned to religious schools.

When Stephanie Vande Kraats first took a job teaching at Surrey Christian School she had to sign an employment contract stating that she was married. At the time, that was true.

But the long-time British Columbia teacher eventually divorced and moved in with another man, violating a clause that forbids “any sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage.” When the school superintendent found out, Vande Kraats was forced to resign.

“It was humiliating,” explained a teary-eyed Vande Kraats. “When you’re enforcing a policy like this you have to ask a teacher questions like, ‘Who do you live with? Where do you live? Are you sexually active? Are you pregnant? Are you gay? I didn’t want to continue in a place where I already felt humiliated and judged. It was traumatic for me.”

Although the superintendent insisted she could work through the remaining six months of her contract, she felt the need to go quietly in order to preserve her chance of getting a good letter of reference. Even the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal dissuaded her from filing a case, “sympathetic” as they were to her experience.

Christian cross in school classroom

Government-Sponsored Morality Police

Although Vande Kraats has since found work elsewhere, she holds on to one chief complaint about the incident: her former employer still receives $5 million annually from the Canadian government. How can a school that receives public funding be allowed to enforce such a discriminatory policy?

Well, it turns out they’re not the only one. In fact, hundreds of religious schools across Canada continue to rely on public funding, even as they are allowed to enact discriminatory hiring policies on the basis of religious exemptions.

Canada allows religious schools to set their own policies as long as they’re based on religious beliefs and designed to promote the interests of a religious group. In 1984, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of a Catholic school that fired a teacher after she married a divorced man, saying non-profit religious institutions had the right to give preference to its members.

Not only that, but such policies don’t disqualify the schools from receiving federal funding. Since the Canadian Constitution doesn’t include a mandate for the separation of church and state, there is no legal ground on which to challenge such funding.  

Nonetheless, Vande Kraatz has filed a petition asking the government to investigate whether funding is unfairly assigned to discriminatory religious schools.

Will Things Ever Change?

Opponents argue this policy amounts to an unofficial government endorsement of discrimination. “It’s enabling private schools that are using public money to operate to violate the human rights of their employees,” says Patti Bacchus, former Vancouver School Board chair. “I think that’s a big problem.”

As for Surrey Christian School, superintendent Dave Loewen admits it was “sad” to see a strong teacher like Vande Kraats go. However, he believes it is more about choices than anything else. “I don’t think it’s discriminatory because it’s not a requirement for people to work here. It’s invitational and we’re transparent about our values,” Loewen insists.

Those values, laid out in community standards policies employees must follow, include recommended bans on using coarse language, public drunkenness and watching porn. Although cases of teachers being forced out on account of their lifestyles are nothing new, whether in Canada or here in the US, these cases seem to be receiving more attention than in the past. Whether that will translate to a change in policy is hard to say.

What do you think? Should the government be barred from sending money to religious schools that discriminate against certain classes of people, or does religious freedom take precedence?

41 comments

  1. Rev. Rene says:

    As a Canadian I dislike this enormously, but the reality is that there is no formal and legal impediment to these religious schools adhering to their stated policies. Note: “stated policies”. Not “something we believe in as a religious bunch”, but a policy given to employees as they start employment. And apparently in our constitution there is no formal requirement to withhold funds for these reasons. I wish it weren’t so, but……………………..

    1. Old Indian Chief says:

      Cristianity is just an excuse to discriminate people based on the bible. The SCOTUS needs to get involve and put a stop to this. Many things in that book defy humanity and just promoted man’s inhumanity towards man in the guise of religion. That is why I believe in Jesus but am not a christian, at least their brand of christian.Businesses and institutions must not be allowed to discriminate based of beliefs BECAUSE not all believe as they do.

      1. John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON says:

        Old Indian Chief, SCOTUS has no authority in Canada, and it takes years to get a case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. While I personally feel that there should be only one set of school systems across the country (i.e., close the religious schools totally), it’s extremely unlikely to happen. Her decision to leave quietly to be able to get a good reference letter, unfortunately is likely the better option for her personal life.

    2. Rev Dr Ryan says:

      If these school were truly Christian, one would expect them to follow the precepts of Jesus and forgive the ‘sinner’. It would also seem that they have failed to learn the lesson of not judging others, Perhaps thy need to go back to school and learn what it means to be a real Christian?
      Abusing their position to dictate how people should lead their personal lives is more about enjoying the power to control other people, than it is in setting standards. This isn’t teaching morality, quite the opposite; it is teaching that moralising and punishing is acceptable and preferable to forgiving and helping.
      Whilst there may be a case of religious education in schools, there should be no place for religious schools, especially one such as this, to impose their opinion of what it means to be a Christian. These faith schools are merely seeking to indoctrinate children in a fashion which is bound to cause some of these children to have mental health problems in the future because of the imposition of a questionable moral construct. Faith schools should not be allowed in the modern world.

  2. John Eftimiades says:

    I don’t have a problem with schools dictating a strict code of conduct based on religious beliefs. Parents, teachers don’t like it they can go elsewhere. But why are public funds being given to these schools. Is there no separation of church and state in Canada?, or are the rules so lax? I don’t believe such an incident would go on in the United States, but maybe I am wrong. Any thoughts?

    1. Dan Anderson says:

      John – As this seems to be a private school, it would not receive public funds, therefore any rules (within reason) can be enforced, no matter how ridiculous it may be.

      To gain employment at Fuller Seminary in the Los Angeles area in the US, they demand a “Profession of Faith” for their professors, regardless of qualification. One could be the finest theologian in the world, but if you happen to be, for example, a Buddhist, that person would not be allowed to be on staff.

      The same applies to the Ark Encounter, a bible attraction company in the US (Kentucky) where employees must sign a profession of faith, not just that one is Christian, but they must also be a Young Earth Creationist, have never had premarital sex, along with a few other caveats. The only reason the do hire others is because some are Old Earth Creationists, while they are also limited to part-time employment of inconsequential positions, mostly not dealing with the general public.

    2. John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON says:

      There is the equivalent of the anti-establishment clause, but there are still laws on the books that are religious based. It was only two decades ago (AFTER we repatriated our paperwork from the UK) that stores were allowed to be open on Sunday in Ontario. Before then, you either were a corner store, or a pharmacy. Truckers were not allowed to drive cargo, unless it was perishable (some of them got around it by putting a pound of butter into the cargo space on the trailer). It was only a few months ago that it became illegal for someone to stop me, as a non-Christian, from performing my sacerdotal duties. Before that, it was possible, as the Criminal Code stated only Christian clergy.

    3. Shane Lowrey says:

      This goes on quite a bit in the US. Schools, icluding elementary, and college, need only apply for a religious waiver to the state or federal government, depending one what they feel a need to do. Federal sex dicrimination (Title IX) https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/t9-rel-exempt/index.html Sexual Orientation https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/12/18/religious-colleges-get-exemptions-to-anti-bias-law-allowing-hidden-discrimination-against-lgbt-students/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a91d0b23965a Hell, individuals can get exemptions to being vaccinated that would otherwise bar students from attending schools on religious grounds in several states, true this is an individual exemption not a school, http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/school-immunization-exemption-state-laws.aspx

  3. Rev Dr Ryan says:

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives people a right to a private life. Employers have no business prying into personal matters, this is the 21st century after all. This smack of the archaic ‘master and servant’ principle and slavery. Further, I suspect that the private lives of some of those school governors would not bear close scrutiny.

    1. flugo says:

      You’re off ‘half cocked’ by implying the employer ”pried’ into personal matters. The woman was under contract with certain stipulations. She screwed up, plain and simple! Now she’s subject to the consequences of her behavior.

      1. Rev Dr Ryan says:

        I rather think that you have made a very simplistic, and naïve, response that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the realities of life and an inferred blind acceptance of the principles underlying any contract of employment. No such contract can take away an individual’s fundamental right to a private life, which was enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

        Further, you have failed to grasp the significance of the fact that this inviolable right cannot be taken away by an unfair contractual term, nor do you seem to understand the meaning of Christian charity – a virtue that the church school is sadly lacking in.

        Perhaps the school church ought to consider biblical teachings on gossip and slander or all of the other ordinances which, if we are to take literally means that 90% of people will have committed some kind of immorality, or sin, and it makes it laughable and utterly hypocritical to judge or condemn another. The school might wish to consider how their lives compare against the following verses and consider whether they are in a position to judge others, which is expressly forbidden and they may wish to ask themselves why they seem to have an undue interest in the sexual lives of others:

        Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

        Leviticus 19:16: You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbour: I am the LORD

        James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

        James 4:11: Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

        Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

        1. Oldaabill says:

          1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

          1. Lionheart says:

            Oh, please stop it and grow up. Religious blackmail could be one of the main reasons behind the growing trend of Xanax and other mood altering drugs here in the U.S. and elsewhere.

            Interestingly, I see you mentioned “drunkards” so I guess Noah is doomed, along with his incestuous family, or did his family get a pass on that from God to keep the earth populated?

      2. Rev Dr Ryan says:

        You have a simple view on life; it’s not that black and white. Further you seem not appreciate, or are being wilfully ignorant of the fact the Universal Declaration of Human Rights trumps any unfair contractual term.
        Moreover you fail to understand the precept of Christian charity and Jesus’ admonition that the sinner should not cast the first stone.

        There are countless biblical references to sexuality and even thinking it makes you as guilty as if you had sinned. Similarly, we are warned about not judging other people, or their lives, as these are sins to.

        I doubt that any member of that church school cannot be found to be immoral, sexually or otherwise, and their interest in the sex lives of others is indicative of prurient voyeurism.

        No-one can lead their lives strictly by the bible, without falling foul of it, not one person. No employer has the right to moralise upon their employees and they ought to be teaching forgiveness, not condemnation.

        Perhaps, you could think first before writing, you might come up with something worth reading, rather than judging this woman, which the bible condemns outright.

        1. Br. Ed Carriere says:

          Too many people like to claim that their human rights were abused. This woman signed a contract. She broke the contract and needs to face the consequences. She can not claim that her human rights were abused.

          IE: you sign a contract with a house renovator. once the work is done, you fail to pay them. You must face the consequences!

          Just because it is a Christian school is not a reason to claim human rights have been abused, especially when a contract was signed. If you claim it is abuse, then you are claiming that every contract signed is an abuse of human rights if you don’t agree with one that you have signed!

          The contract stated the rules. The UN declaration means nothing. Much of what the UN does is not respected anywhere, if it was, you would no longer see wars, terrorism and such.

  4. Lionheart says:

    Religion is very complex isn’t it? She’s better getting a teaching position away from it all.

    1. Rev Buzz says:

      Lionheart, many of your comments (I’m including other comment posts on other topics) are very wise. I’m afraid that sometimes not all readers will understand your subtle and brief messages. I for one do appreciate reading your posts, even when I may differ from the content.

      1. Lionheart says:

        Thank you Rev Buzz. I do try to bring levity as best I can to my comments, but don’t always succeed. Life is so precious to get upset by who said what, and when. I was taught what to believe and think by family, friends, peers, etc,. It took awhile for me to unclutter my brain, and change my whole belief structure. I’m now a huge advocate in teaching children/adults “how” to think, and not “what” to think. It’s quite a crusade 😇

        🦁❤️

        1. Rev Buzz says:

          Lionheart, one of your best posts yet. 🤔 It gave some insight into you the person. Much appreciated. Back in the 70s, a common saying was; “I don’t know where you are coming from.” I think I know a little better where you are coming from. 🤔 Thank you for sharing.

      2. Rev Dr Ryan says:

        If people just walked away from difficult situations the world would be a different place. Blacks would be segregated, the Southern States would still have black slaves working on plantations unions would not exist, women’s rights and gay rights wouldn’t exist, etc.

        The world has been made a better place because people stood up and challenged the status quo. This woman has challenged the right of the church school to dictate her private and personal life. The clause about not having sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is downright discrimination against gays The world has moved on, since the bible was written, and that school ought to move away from its puritanical interpretation of the Bible.

        Perhaps they ought to take note of the following verse: Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

        Rather than forcing this woman out, they ought to have been supporting her during a difficult time in her life. For all we know, she may have been escaping an abusive relationship and how did the school find out that she had been having a sexual relationship with her new partner? They could only know if they had asked her directly, which smacks of prurience and it is a gross intrusion into her private life.

        She shouldn’t be leaving the school, the school ought to be leaving education and let professionals who are free of bigotry do the job.

        1. John Owens says:

          Umm, the northern states would also still have slaves. Just saying.

          1. Rev Dr Ryan says:

            True. In fact, it would be the same for many countries

          2. John Owens says:

            Yes. It was a worldwide custom before. The American Indians practiced it, too. Some countries still practice it today.

  5. Tom B says:

    Respectfully, religious “freedom” should never never be an issue if there is an issue of federal funding…although the Canadian Constitution varies from the American one, in the United States we are making a mistake by giving federal funds (which at this point in history we do not even have) to schools that are not open to all students, educators, administrators and other personnel…there is nothing in our laws saying that the federal government must fund religious institutions…Peace…Tom B

  6. Tom says:

    Sure, it’s about life choices. Maybe she should have stayed married. Maybe she wouldn’t have taken the anger and frustration of a terrible marriage out on the kids and her colleagues. Given these restrictions, I wonder how many male teachers at this school are equally dissatisfied with their personal choices and thus result in tickling the kiddies?

  7. Chris says:

    If a private institution is receiving government funding they should be required to adhere to the same regulations as any public government funded institution. If they want to dictate the private lives of their faculty they should be required to do so with their own money and not my tax dollars.

    Sadly, giving all this money to private institutions only hurts the public schools most of us rely on. Not everyone can afford private schools, and now with the lack of funding available public schools are becoming more expensive and more difficult to afford. When I enrolled my youngest in his senior year of public high school books and tuition cost about $250. That didn’t include any extracurricular activities. And that’s not a cost many of us can afford easily. We need to quit giving funding to private institutions that charge higher admission fees and use it to fund public education as it was intended in the first place.

    1. Tom B says:

      Chris…well said…Peace…Tom B

  8. skye riversong says:

    gosh, she could simply have gone to the courthouse with her second guy and gotten married.

  9. Briham says:

    Living in sin !!
    You people on the north american continent are still living in the 18 th century.

    If someone like that asked me if I was pregnant I would say MYOB.

    1. Rev Dr Ryan says:

      I believe it’s the legacy of the Puritans who fled other countries that would not allow them to religiously persecute others who did not share their bigoted views. If the school is so concerned about the morals of its employees then perhaps they ought to employ nuns but, then again, they don’t have a brilliant track record either.

  10. Alicia says:

    Personally, I don’t think ANY government should give funds to private/religious schools. I also don’t think that anyone’s tax dollars go to fund these schools.

    Now, this woman signed a contract with the school. Most schools, public or private, have a morals clause. This is a Christian school. While I don’t think her living arrangements would impact her teaching ability, I can see where her living with someone other than a husband can cause a problem with parents, if they found out. But, again…it’s a Christian school. They frown on the “living in sin” thing and had it put in the contract, that she signed.

    Since this teacher found another job, this matter should have been closed, but now, she’s protesting that the school is getting government funds. Yeah…that needs to stop.

  11. Rev. Robert says:

    B.C. Is in Canada. There is no separation of church or Bill of Rights. People in the USA are so stupid they believe the rest of the world is under their bobernment now?

  12. Revelyn says:

    When you preach “under grace” theology then these judgments are pure hypocrisy

  13. Oldaabill says:

    Technically, the teacher was fired for breach of contract in that she had agreed to follow religious guidelines for lifestyle, and failed to follow through. “1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    1. Rev Dr Ryan says:

      Well, Hell is going to be rather overcrowded and Heaven pretty empty with all these pre-conditions. Any God that sets down a list of arbitrary and contradictory rules shows a lack of perfection in being unable to set down achievable goals. I bet those school governors are going to be embarrassed when they get sent to hell – how are they going to explain that to those that they have judged and moralised upon?
      Jesus did not preach about judging, or condemning others, he talked about love and forgiveness. Too much weight is given to those who subverted his works for their benefit.
      Of course if the school had any real faith, they would have prayed for her – or don’t they believe that they work?

  14. pcfield says:

    Sigh…and the beat goes on…we can only “fix” the world by being what we believe in our own lives. We can not make or force anyone to believe the same, do the same, be the same. Each one of us must make our own peace with God which is between you and God. No one should make themselves God, He already has dubs on that one. I always say, “There is only one God, it ain’t you and it ain’t me.”
    Relax and be at peace with all you meet. You can not change anyone, they must change themselves or not…

    1. Tom B says:

      pcfield…i agree with what you wrote…the best we can do is to be peace and compassion, and hope others will notice and act the same…Peace…Tom B

  15. Tony says:

    Christian standing in judgement; always reason for a closer look. Let he who is without sin… Oh, too late! You stood in judgement of your fellow.

    1. Rev Dr Ryan says:

      Challenging someone about their attitude is not the same as judging them; it’s merely pointing out the weaknesses of their stance in their selectively applying the bible to justify their morality, when the Bible shows such actions to be immoral in itself.

      The real issue is not whether the school is morally right or wrong it is whether their practises comply with secular law, viz., a person’s fundamental human rights to a private life and non-discrimination.

      The Church School seems to be happy to take State funding without applying State employment policies, which would never allow such an invasion of a person’s private life. They ought to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

  16. Secretary3rd says:

    Has burning of witches gone out of style in Canada. I wonder how people will feel if those that throw rocks have their past cut open.

  17. John Owens says:

    Employers can fire you for just about any reason, real or imagined. Just as often it is political or personal.

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