Irregular Catholic school board election will go unchallenged

By Glen Argan

The Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) will not be challenging the validity of the election in Edmonton’s Catholic school board’s Ward 75. And neither will I.

This afternoon (Oct. 24) I had a brief chat – it was too informal to call it an interview – with the ACSTA’s executive director, Dean Sarnecki.

The ACSTA, Sarnecki said, has no legal standing which would enable it to challenge an election. Only individuals – which, in this case, would mean me – can challenge the validity of an election under the Local Authorities Election Act.

I have said I do not intend to challenge the election. The issue is not about me and whether the election itself was fair. Rather, the issue is whether non-Catholics have the right to run for election to Catholic school boards. Not just be elected to a board, but even to run for a spot on the board.

That issue still stands. I will write to the ACSTA’s board of directors asking it to take any necessary action to prevent non-Catholics from running for election to Catholic school boards. Exactly what such action might be is not so clear – better instruction of municipal officials or perhaps lobbying the provincial government to define the word “Catholic” in its relevant statutes.

For me to launch a court action would ultimately entail asking the court to define who is Catholic. In the past, Alberta courts have shown a willingness to rule that those who say they are a member of a particular religion are in fact members of that religion. The courts have bought into the contemporary ideology that religious belief and membership, like many other things, is a private matter.

However, the Catholic Church is a body, a hierarchically-structured body into which one is either publicly baptized as an infant or young child or received into as an adult. You do not wish yourself into or out of the Church, no matter how sincere those wishes.

Entering the Church is like being married. It is a public act in which the whole body is involved.

I do not want to give the court the opportunity to conjure up some definition of what it means to be Catholic. Much better that the ACSTA work that out with a government which understands the religious dimension of being human.

Until that is resolved, the Catholicity of our school boards is in jeopardy. Any malcontent or mischief maker can run for a spot on a Catholic board by claiming to be Catholic and getting 25 others to sign their nomination papers. It is not a healthy situation.

(Glen Argan ran second in the Catholic school board election in Ward 75.)

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