Indoctrination, exorcisms, and abuse alleged in lawsuit

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A cycle of ‘no comment’ from Saskatchewan Christian schools

“Demerits are for procedural violations; the paddle is for moral violations.” A line that the procedural manual for Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) stated in 1998. Only six years later, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the section of the Criminal Code that carved out an exception for adults to hit children as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The paddle was no longer allowed in schools country-wide.  

However, corporal punishment in many places was never limited to the paddling and physical abuse that sometimes still occurs. This is the allegation of one class-action lawsuit that was filed this past August. Between 1995-2010 the defendants all attended an independent Christian school in Saskatoon, which used and still uses materials from the ACE curriculum. An independent school is a not-for-profit school, which is not a public school, but still receives about 50 per cent of the funding that a public schools do per student from the government.  

Legacy Christian Academy (LCA) is associated with a church now known as Mile Two Church, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with numerous individuals from both the school and the church. The claimants are being represented by Scharfstein LLP, and they are still accepting applicants, according to their website. The lawsuit is asking for damages of at least $25 million plus additional punitive damages. There is still no word on whether Crown prosecutors plan to bring additional criminal charges. 

The statement of claim, released to the public by Scharfstein LLP, makes a variety of allegations. One of the lead plaintiffs, Coy Nolin, said he was paddled by several school administrators after they found out he was homosexual. In a CBC article from August 2, 2022, he goes into additional detail. He alleges that after the paddling, four school administrators came to his home to perform an exorcism in an attempt to ‘cure’ his homosexuality. His mother stated the school administrators pushed her out of the way and left her crying in the corner of the room while they attacked Nolin for an hour. Nolin states that he was left bruised and limping. 

The statement of claim also alleges other students were physically struck by staff for being within six inches of the opposite sex, socializing with people who were not members of the church, refusing to pray in front of a group, as well as numerous other infractions.  

The allegations have been supported by a former youth pastor at Mile Two Church who came forward to CBC on August 11, saying of the allegations in the statement of claim “all of it is 100 per cent true.” 

Yet, this lawsuit isn’t coming out of thin air. The statement of claim cites LCA publications as admitting to physically hitting children, saying “She disciplined each of her children until their will was broken. The liberal humanists of our day would go into immediate shock at such a statement. But in Ps. [Psalms] 143:10, the psalmist prayed for God to teach him to do His will. Jesus said, ‘I came not to do my will, but to do the will of my Father.’” 

In the March 10, 1997 issue of Maclean’s, the then principal of the school appeared in the issue to defend the use of paddling students, saying “we use it [the paddle] when necessary.” 

Aside from this one school, the ACE curriculum has been more broadly criticized, receiving similar allegations and lawsuits in several countries. A Ph.D. thesis from University College London was published in 2017 by Dr. Jenna Scaramanga which thoroughly analyzed the ACE curriculum, and included interviewed with students who attended private Christian schools using ACE. The study refers to ACE schools as “systems of indoctrination.” From her research, she concluded “students in ACE schools have been harmed physically, psychologically, academically, and spiritually.” 

The ACE Canada website does not state publicly which schools in Canada are using ACE, nor how many. However, it says in the FAQ that they will tell people what schools in their area use ACE if contacted. To test this claim, I contacted them using a personal email address, inquiring about ACE schools in Regina, and was referred to a different contact than stated on their website, from whom I got no response.  

Even here in Saskatchewan, students from other Christian schools have since come forward with more allegations of discriminatory behaviour, echoing the alleged anti-queer experiences of Nolin. In a CTV interview published on November 8, 2022, Jordan McGillicky alleges she was fired as a resident supervisor from Christian college Briercrest. As well, on October 21, 2022, CBC reported that a queer teen in Regina was called “demonic” and kicked out of a Christian kid’s club.  

The struggles of the claimants have continued since filing the lawsuit. Lead plaintiff Caitlin Erickson left her home with her children to stay elsewhere after their outdoor security cameras were ripped down and the phrase “HEB 12” was spraypainted on the house. The graffiti is likely referencing Hebrews 12, a chapter of the Bible, which includes this verse: “Worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Not even a week later on November 10, the house Erickson and her children left was burned down.

The chapter also appears to make implications about corporal punishment several times, such as in the phrase: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? […] We have all had human fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them for it.” 

Mile Two Church has been largely silent on the class-action lawsuit thus far. In November, the church released a series of sermons on suffering tribulations to their podcast. The Carillon contacted the church to ask if they have comment on the suspected violence against the claimants who are suing them. Their lead pastor Brien Johnson replied “The Church does not endorse or condone these unacceptable actions taken by others.” 

The claimants have also spoken at the Legislative Assembly and have called on the government to take action against independent Christian schools in the province. The Carillon reached out to Minister of Education Dustin Duncan to ask if he would take further action after Erickson’s house burned down. Duncan responded that in August they had already increased unannounced supervisory visits to independent schools, mandated that schools notify the ministry when a crime is alleged, and gave the ministry power to appoint administrators to independent schools. In regard to further action, the ministry stated that “Additional amendments to the Registered Independent Schools Regulations are under review.” 

If you have experiences, big or small, good or bad, at a Christian school that you would be willing to discuss for an upcoming article, please contact josh@thecarillon.com.  

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