A group of Moncton, New Brunswick, activists is promoting a petition to end public funding for Crandall University, a Christian liberal arts school and the only English-speaking university in Moncton. They’re angry about the school’s employment policy, which includes strict guidelines that discriminate against gays and lesbians.
According to the university’s statement of moral standards, faculty and staff must “be sexually pure, reserving sexual intimacy for within a traditional marriage between one man and one woman, and refraining from the use of pornographic materials.”
Staff must also commit to “Christian standards in all aspects of life.” The Crandall website says faculty who don’t follow these rules may receive disciplinary action.
Global News reported May 28 that Crandall, formerly Atlantic Baptist University, has received about $24 million in funding from all levels of government. Since 2010, Crandall has received $150,000 a year in grants from the City of Moncton for capital expenses.
Crandall University administration declined to comment for this article, but Seth Crowell, Crandall’s vice-president for academic affairs, recently told media that the school is acting within the Human Rights Code.
Kevin Kindred, a New Brunswick native and professor of employment labour at Dalhousie University, thinks Crandall is standing on firm legal ground. “Human rights codes recognize that religious institutions will have practices that, on their face, violate the code,” he says.
“So long as it’s truly a religious institution, and the discrimination has a bona fide relationship to their beliefs, they will have a defence. To win against Crandall, you’d have to argue that they’re not really operating as a religious institution but generally are really a public institution like any other university.”
However, Kindred says that while religious institutions have the right to set their own parameters, it’s not reasonable for them to get public tax monies. “If Crandall is going to be protected from the laws that apply to other schools, then they shouldn’t get the funds that are available to other schools.”
He says that if an English-language university is needed in the Moncton area, then government, rather than faith groups, should be working to close the gap.
But Jillian Duplessi of Miramichi doesn’t think that’s fair. Duplessi, 22, is a prospective Crandall student who turned down her acceptance to the university after she heard about its hiring practice on the news.
She doesn’t personally identify as Christian — “I’m not entirely sure where I fall,” she says — but she was comfortable with the Christian elements of the school, such as chapel attendance.
Duplessi was drawn to Crandall’s education program, which she says is known by teachers she talks to as the best training in the region.
Her decision was a hard one. “I got the cream of the crop and had to give it up,” she says.
But Duplessi says she couldn’t morally attend Crandall once she knew about its hiring policy. “If there is a student in my class that is gay,” she says, “I don’t want them to feel more isolated than they already do. I don’t want them to think that I’ve judged them because I have Crandall on my record.”
Duplessi wants to see Crandall reform its policies and continue receiving public funding. “I would really, really like to see Crandall reassess this and see that it is discrimination,” she says. “I would hope that they would kind of see their faults right now and change it as opposed to . . . not learn anything.”
River of Pride, a Moncton gay rights organization, released a statement encouraging the City of Moncton and the provincial and federal governments to review their policies around distributing funds to private organizations like Crandall.
“We encourage all parties involved; the City of Moncton, Crandall University, Federal and Provincial governments, and the public, to come together, and share discussions on how to bring this situation to a conclusion that is beneficial and non-discriminatory for all members of our communities,” the statement said.