15 Dec 2010

Rapid growth of Bible-based education in Canada spurred by Christian nationalists eager to indoctrinate the "Joshua Generation"

July 27, 2010

The Tyee - British Columbia

Raising the Joshua Generation

The following excerpt was published in The Tyee as a five part series, which have been combined here. It is from the chapter titled "Raising the Joshua Generation" in The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, by Marci McDonald, which is an in-depth look at how the Christian right is building its political power in Canada under the approving eye of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance. This excerpt details the battle over public school curriculum in British Columbia and the growth of Bible-based schooling in Canada from kindergarten through university. It traces British Columbia's central role in religious conservatives' drive to raise a next generation well trained in its mission to shift Canada away from secular public culture.


Raising the Joshua Generation

In the Grade 12 social-studies class at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, 25 teenagers turn their attention from text messaging to the well-tailored retiree who is their guest speaker of the week. Immaculate in grey flannels and a buttoned-down shirt, he is far from an imposing figure, easily dwarfed by the tallest girls in the class, but as these students well know, this is no ordinary visitor dropping in on Social Justice 12, the controversial new course designed to combat discrimination in British Columbia schools. Murray Corren is its inspiration and driving force -- one half of the gay couple behind the most provocative revamping of the provincial curriculum since the government first dared to inform students about the verboten subject of sex.

In online Christian chat rooms and the right-wing blogosphere, he and his spouse, Peter Corren, have been called every epithet imaginable since they launched a 1999 human rights complaint against B.C.'s Ministry of Education for "systemic gender discrimination." Seven years later, just as the case was finally scheduled to be heard, the government settled, seizing on the Correns' proposal for an elective course to combat not only homophobia but bigotry of every kind, including biases against the disabled, the homeless and the poor. To thousands of evangelical and Catholic parents, those topics were mere window dressing to mask the true aims of the course: foisting what some like to call a "homosexualist agenda" on impressionable teens.

For two years, they attempted to block both the course and another product of the settlement that caused even greater consternation: a curriculum guide to teaching diversity in select subjects from kindergarten to high school on which the Correns were given an unprecedented advisory role. One evangelical group, the Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values Association (CASJAFVA), collected 17,000 signatures on a petition condemning the agreement and staged a noisy demonstration outside the provincial legislature, while Vancouver's former Roman Catholic archbishop, Raymond Roussin, warned parents that the proposed guide would infect the classroom with "morally objectionable material."

After the debut of Social Justice 12 in the fall of 2008, its foes stepped up their efforts. A half-dozen organizations, including REAL Women of B.C., formed a coalition called Take Back Our Schools, which blasted the Corren agreement as a blatant attack on parents' rights.

In Abbotsford, the epicentre of the province's Bible belt, the same school board that had once covertly OKed the teaching of creation science refused to offer the course for a year -- its reluctance bolstered by a group called Parents for Democracy in Education, which sounded the equivalent of an Amber Alert. "Government Dictatorship?" its online advertisements screamed. "Are you alarmed about the revised school curriculum? Is it challenging parental rights, cultural values and religious freedom?" The group's website featured a plug from the former Social Credit premier, Bill Vander Zalm, who donated half the profits from his most recent book to the cause and denounced "the growing trend of student indoctrination."

While the outcry over the Corren agreement has become one of the most polarizing skirmishes in the Canadian culture wars, it is only the latest standoff in a half-century struggle to determine which values are taught in the public-school system and who has the final say over what a child learns: parents or the government. Ever since any mention of creationism was banned from biology lessons in the name of science and prayers were pulled out of schools in the name of interfaith harmony, many conservative Christians have come to view state-run education systems with mistrust and outright hostility. As they see it, liberals and secular humanists have conspired with the courts to wipe out all symbols of Christianity from the classroom and impose an alien agenda on their offspring.

Alberta reacts

In Quebec, where the government has orchestrated a decade-long secularization of education, some Catholics and evangelicals have launched lawsuits against the Ministry of Education over a new ecumenical course called Ethics and Religious Culture that has been declared mandatory. Designed to boost cross-cultural understanding in a province where that commodity sometimes appeared to be in short supply, the course has provoked outrage for giving the same weight to Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, aboriginal spirituality and even Wicca as it does to Christianity.

Last year, a Quebec judge dismissed a case filed by two Drummondville families who had charged the ministry with violating their constitutional rights by refusing requests to exempt their children from the course, but, with other cases pending, this is unlikely to be the last word from the courts. [Indeed, in June, Quebec Superior Court Justice Gerard Dugre ruled that Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys' school in Montreal, was not obliged to teach the course, declaring that it breached the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and noting that the Department of Education's attitude on the issue "assumes a totalitarian quality essentially equivalent to the order given to Galileo by the Inquisition to renounce Copernican cosmology." The provincial government is now appealing his controversial decision.]

Meanwhile, the Alberta government found itself under fire for introducing a contentious measure that guarantees parents the very right their Quebec counterparts were refused: the opportunity to yank their children out of any classes dealing explicitly with religion or sexual orientation. Despite objections from the provincial teachers' federation and a warning from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that the bill would help "promote a regime of religious intolerance," it survived five stormy weeks of debate in the legislature to become law in the spring of 2009, prompting former Conservative senator Ron Ghitter to observe that "we're kind of stepping back into the Middle Ages."

Alberta's move was clearly a pre-emptive strike designed to prevent the Corren precedent from spilling across the border, a fear that conservative Christians have fanned in every province. Still, not all the objections to B.C.'s Social Justice 12 have come from the family-values camp. While the minister of education was hailing it as a global milestone in teaching diversity, some of the loudest objections emerged from the very communities who make up the province's diverse demographic patchwork: Hindu, Sikh and Chinese Canadians who have demonstrated that, on issues like same-sex marriage, they can be as socially conservative as the Christian right.

That realization was not lost on Stephen Harper when he drafted his theo-conservative strategy, nor was it any accident that Harper kicked off his 2008 election campaign clad in a blue sweater, indulging in a round of baby-kissing in the B.C. riding of a three-time candidate named Alice Wong. Now the Conservative member of Parliament for Richmond, Wong had been an enthusiastic speaker and fundraiser for CASJAFVA, the right-wing advocacy group whose mostly Chinese membership had organized the largest protest against the Corren agreement.

But the furor over Social Justice 12 was also fostered by cross-border ministries like Focus on the Family Canada, headquartered on the outskirts of Langley, east of Vancouver. Fresh from his radio campaign against same-sex marriage in this country, its founder, James Dobson, warned the millions of subscribers to his monthly newsletter of yet another threat: a cabal of gay activists had drafted a sinister plot against the continent's schools. In elaborate detail, he spelled out their "audacious attempt to reshape the beliefs of an entire generation, beginning with the youngest and most vulnerable."

Summoning his followers to block any attempts to portray homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, Dobson pulled out all the rhetorical stops. "Not since Adolf Hitler prepared a generation of German and Austrian youth for war," he fumed, "has so grand a strategy been attempted."

The making of Murray Corren

Standing before the Social Justice 12 class, Corren looks incapable of provoking such inflammatory prose, but as a veteran of nearly every gay-rights fight in the province, he is clearly the incarnation of James Dobson's worst nightmare -- a symbol of everything the religious right deems wrong with public education.

Murray Corren might have rhymed off statistics to the class: 82 per cent of gay students report being bullied and 48 per cent confess to contemplating suicide. He could have recounted the tragedies of two American adolescents who'd actually been driven to kill themselves, one found hanged by an electrical cord in his closet after being taunted as a "fag" by classmates.

Instead, Corren relates a condensed version of his own biography, growing up as Murray Warren in a bleak Newfoundland mining town where he was mocked at school as a "sissy" and occasionally limped home with a bloody nose. It is a calculated strategy, he admits, to stress the personal, not the political. "All the research shows that if you actually know somebody who is gay," he says, "it's much harder to discriminate."

Coming of age in the 1950s, Corren was haunted by a book he'd found at the local public library, Abnormal Sexuality, which, he says, detailed "this sickness, this mental illness I had." Even when he escaped to Memorial University in St. John's, then to Montreal, where he taught for two years, he lived in terror of revealing his sexuality. That changed when he went to England to complete his M.A. thesis. Helping out at one of London's private gay clubs, he caught sight of a dashing Englishman with piercing blue eyes named Peter Cook, the beginning of a 40-year relationship that lasted until Cook's death in December 2009.

Five years earlier, when they became one of Canada's first same-sex couples to marry -- their garden ceremony featured in the National Film Board documentary Why Thee Wed -- they signalled their status by legally amalgamating their surnames, Cook and Warren, to Corren, a moniker that has become a household word in religious right circles.

Still, they had been together for nearly two decades, running florist businesses in England and South Africa, before it occurred to them to enlist in the movement for gay rights. Moving to Vancouver on the eve of the 1990 Gay Games, they found a city where homosexuals were celebrating a newfound sense of freedom, but at the Coquitlam elementary school where Corren had landed a teaching job, he kept his live-in relationship under wraps. Then, on a trip to San Francisco, watching its notoriously flamboyant Gay Pride parade, he was stunned to see a contingent of gay and lesbian teachers marching under a banner proclaiming their sexual identity.

So moved was Corren by their openness that he jumped out of the crowd to join them, only to have his euphoria shattered by a stinging rebuke from the crowd. "Where were you when I needed you?" a young spectator yelled at the teachers' contingent.

The incident left Corren shaken. "I realized it was a question I had to answer," he tells the class. "Where was I for the students I taught who were wrestling with their sexuality?"

Book banning

Helping to found a support group called the Gay and Lesbian Educators of B.C. (GALE BC), Corren became its public face and a lightning rod for social-conservative fury. When he asked his school board to investigate the plight of gay pupils, he received his first death threats.

Months later, at a tumultuous meeting of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, his resolution calling for an official policy to end homophobia passed by a landslide, but that victory opened the way to a more determined backlash -- one that would galvanize conservative Christians across the country.

In the wake of the federation vote, the school board in Surrey brought in a resolution pointedly banning any resource material recommended by educators who were members of GALE. The move hardly came as a surprise -- among the most outspoken Surrey trustees was Heather Stilwell, a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party -- but GALE set out to test the board's stand.

Weeks later, an openly gay kindergarten teacher named James Chamberlain asked for permission to use three supplementary storybooks depicting same-sex families: Asha's Mums, Belinda's Bouquet and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads.

As Corren rhymes off the titles, the Riverside students nod in recognition -- for most, the books had been standard primary-school fare -- but the Surrey trustees vetoed all three. Testifying at a crammed board meeting on Chamberlain's behalf, Corren showed up sporting a T-shirt that announced "Bigots Ban Books," only to find himself caught up in a near-riot. As a reporter hustled him to safety in a waiting car, parents in hot pursuit, one bruiser branded him a pervert and pedophile.

The episode steeled his resolve. He and his partner hired the human rights lawyer Joe Arvay, who had defended Vancouver's lesbian bookstore Little Sisters, to mount Chamberlain's constitutional challenge against the Surrey board. Although the Correns were only tangentially involved, they guaranteed Arvay's legal fees, which would eventually exceed $1 million as the case made its way through two appeals to the nation's highest court.

A watershed -- for Christian right, too

Five years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the Surrey board had defied the nature and intent of the B.C. Schools Act by banning the three storybooks.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin refused to acknowledge the supremacy of parents' rights. "Parental views, however important, cannot override the imperative placed upon the British Columbia public schools to mirror the diversity of the community, and teach tolerance and understanding of difference," she declared.

For many conservative Christians, the decision still stands as a watershed, a legal Waterloo that galvanized them into the sort of grassroots activism that Ralph Reed pioneered in the U.S., taking over local school boards and town councils in the first step toward building a nationwide resistance movement. A social-conservative coalition called the Surrey Electoral Team emerged to control the board and city government for nearly a decade, and one of its leading members, the former school-board chair, Mary Polak, would go on to become a cabinet minister in Gordon Campbell's provincial government.

Jerry Falwell, who helped turn Christian schooling into one of the chief crusades of the religious right, once rhapsodized in a speech to fellow fundamentalists about "a time when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them."

So explosive was the mood in B.C. after the Corren agreement that Derek Rogusky, the vice-president of Focus on the Family Canada, predicted it would provoke an exodus of evangelicals from the province's public schools. But when the Ministry of Education tallied enrollment, no such mass defection had materialized.

Instead, statistics revealed what some provincial educators regard as a more unsettling trend: a steady two per cent annual increase in the number of B.C. students attending private schools, most of them faith-based, over the past two decades.

BC leads in growth of religious schools

Despite the ministry's determination to ensure diversity in the classroom -- or maybe because of it -- nearly 11 per cent of B.C.'s school-age population now attends private Christian, Jewish, Sikh or Muslim academies, more than twice the ratio in any other province.

Clearly, one reason for that relentless growth is that B.C., along with Alberta, pays up to 50 per cent of the fee for students registered in accredited private schools. But that subsidy also prompted many Christian school boards to fear that the province could pressure them to comply with the Corren agreement. Although the ministry issued a vaguely worded letter assuring them that they had nothing to fear, the controversy revealed an important distinction: not all Christian schools are cut from the same reactionary cloth.

In Surrey, Dennis deGroot, the principal of Fraser Valley Christian High School, shocked some colleagues by offering Social Justice 12 to his students. As he pointed out, the course fits perfectly with the school's mission to produce evangelical graduates inspired to tackle the problems of poverty, inequity and racism -- a mission that includes an annual senior-class trip to an impoverished African village. "If we are not teaching about justice," deGroot wrote in B.C. Christian News, "then who will?"

A Christian curriculum

What does a Bible-based education look like? In Betty-Anne Rozema's Grade 3 class at Knox Christian School in Bowmanville, Ontario, 20 pint-sized tykes sit cross-legged on a carpet beneath a handmade mobile of rocket ships, their tinfoil fuselages sprouting sequined fins and orange tissue-paper flames. Clapping to command attention, Rozema holds up an oversized picture book featuring a gigantic burst of light.

"Many astronomers believe the universe was born from one big explosion called the Big Bang," she says. "It all began with tiny, tiny particles -- that is, matter."

One six-year-old is quick to catch her drift. "It's not true!" he squeals.

"Well, this is what scientists believe," she says patiently. "What do you believe?"

The answer comes back twentyfold, loud and clear: "God made it!"

Rozema doesn't pause to debate the issue, moving on swiftly to describe the solar system and the fragile protection afforded by the earth's atmosphere. "I'm very glad God put us on this planet just the right distance from the sun," she says. "What people have to do is be very careful we look after this atmosphere or we won't have air to breathe." Between that pitch for environmentalism and the school's allegiance to the inerrancy of the Bible, Rozema walks a careful line, well aware that some parents embrace the literal six-day creation story while others prefer a Christian version of the Big Bang in which God choreographed the cosmic fireworks. "I don't tell them which to think -- I leave that up to the parents," she says. "Either way, it makes God sovereign. He initiated it: order came from chaos. God knows what he's doing."

In later grades, these students will hear about evolution or stumble on television shows about the origins of the universe that make no mention of a deity, but that is not a message Rozema conveys to her class. "I would never promote a theory where God is absent -- where it's a fearful thing," she says. "I believe children want to have parameters that can be trusted. If what they're hearing at home and here is consistent, their worldview becomes more solid."

Invisible schools

That deference to both parental and biblical authority is one reason why 134 families pay up to $12,500 a year to send their children to Knox Christian School, one of an estimated 1,500 private evangelical schools across the country. In Ontario, as in other provinces, the precise number defies easy calculation since many Christian schools refuse to register with the assortment of fractious organizations that lobby on their behalf.

"There are some schools that don't want to be recorded," says Adrian Guldemond, executive director of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, who claims 80 members in his association but estimates that as many as 650 such institutions actually exist in the province. "They're what we call invisible schools -- usually in homes or church basements," he explains. "They have a view of the government as being anti-Christian and uncooperative, and they like to stay below the radar."

An increasing number of social conservatives, including many immigrants, are also seeking out Christian schools as a refuge from the alien, anything-goes culture they perceive in the public system, where classes are often twice the size and drug dealers can infiltrate even the most remote rural playgrounds.

Winston Quintal's parents, newly arrived from India, pulled him out of a nearby public school, worried about the rumoured presence of drugs and the preoccupation their son had with wearing the right brand names. "My parents are very attentive about my social life," Quintal says during a seventh-grade break at Knox. "Here, the principal knows every single student and the teachers are much more strict. I had to get used to it. In my old school, all that mattered was if you were cool."

High marks

While Quintal's parents might once have had to trade academic excellence for that tighter rein, Christian schools like Knox no longer qualify as scholastic backwaters. In the basic skills test it administers every two years, students consistently score a grade ahead of their actual status, and on provincial tests, secondary students from the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools ranked in the eighty-first percentile on all subjects while those in the public system averaged only a median passing grade.

"The reality of a private school is that it's a consumer-driven model," Knox principal George Petrusma says. "If we weren't doing the job, our desks would be empty."

At Knox, every day begins with a prayer and half an hour of devotions, and the curriculum is set out in thick white plastic binders from the Ontario Association of Christian Schools, designed to meet provincial academic requirements while linking each segment to a verse from the Bible. Broaching the subject of aboriginal history, the guide includes a cautionary note: "Not only we, but also God, is offended by stereotyping."

As Grade 8 teacher Stephen Janssen admits, "We march to a different drummer here." The son of a Christian school principal, Janssen concedes that his approach to some subjects is unlikely to resemble that of his public school colleagues. "The Christian conception of history is definitely linear," he points out. "God guides history and there is a culminating moment: Christ's return." A query scrawled at the top of his blackboard provides a reminder of that point: "When Christ returns," it asks, "what will things look like?"

'The messiness of the world'

For students who go on to high school at Knox's sister institution down the road, then graduate to a Christian university or Bible college, it is possible to spend an entire academic lifetime, as Janssen has, inside the cocoon of faith-based institutions. Still, he insists the school is "not about setting up walls and saying, 'We're a fortress of Christian faith.'" He invites students to contemplate what he calls "the messiness of the world," from Afghanistan and the Middle East to the consumer messages that bombard them through the mass media. "By the time a student leaves, we want to make sure that they are equipped to make wise and discerning choices," he says, "that are in agreement with what they believe."

But occasionally, the school's theological principles are also apparent in its omissions. In social studies, there is no mention of newfangled family permutations such as same-sex parents, and although some students are the products of single mothers or divorced parents, their situation is considered such an anomaly that they are offered a special counselling program during lunch hour.

"The definition of family here is one mom, one dad and children," Petrusma says.

In Canada, the home schooling movement has been growing at a rate that is difficult for authorities to ignore. In 1979, an estimated 2,000 children were being taught by their parents; today, the Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada puts that tally at 60,000 to 80,000.

While Ontario claims the largest number of homeschoolers, the movement's chief momentum is in the West, where B.C. foots the bill for home-computer costs and Alberta picks up 16 per cent of the tab for those who comply with the provincial curriculum and submit to periodic tests. As home educators like to point out, the Internet has put even the most isolated students only a keystroke away from a vast electronic library and distance-learning tutorials.

To outsiders, homeschooling numbers might seem negligible, but the movement's collective clout is no longer dismissed -- at least not since the last U.S. presidential primaries. As the results from the Republican caucuses in Iowa rolled in late one January night in 2008, pundits were astonished to discover that the key factor responsible for transforming an obscure, guitar-playing former Arkansas governor named Mike Huckabee into the upset winner was his grassroots network of fellow evangelicals in the homeschooling movement.

While once most homeschoolers were left-wing hippies who'd dropped out of the straitlaced consumer culture of the 1960s, today more than three-quarters are conservative Christians recoiling from the moral free-for-all they blame on those long-ago summers of love. According to a 2003 survey, more than 85 per cent of Canadian families who opted to homeschool their children did so in order to teach them a particular set of religious and moral beliefs.

Amy and Ryan Bromilow, two homeschoolers attending a gathering of the Ontario Christian Home Educators Connection (OCHEC) in Hamilton, Ontario, aren't reluctant to own up to that motivation. "We want to keep our children pure the way my parents wanted to keep us pure," Amy says, "and to teach them Christian values."

Homeschoolers in Harper's circle

With her flowery skirt and fortress mentality, Bromilow might seem to fit the prevailing stereotype of the homeschooler, but that profile is changing as swiftly as the country's demographics. At the OCHEC conference, a handful of women sporting Islamic headscarves push strollers through the crowd -- one reminder that Muslims now make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the movement -- and homeschooling is no longer a strictly rural phenomenon. One former bookstore manager with a gold earring glinting beneath his shaved pate could pass for any urban hipster in the downtown Hamilton neighbourhood where he and his wife have chosen to teach their two daughters.

Even some of the leading players in Stephen Harper's Ottawa have jumped on the homeschooling bandwagon. Two Conservative MPs, Ontario's Jeff Watson and Ed Komarnicki, a former president of the Saskatchewan Home Based Educators, have homeschooled their children, and one of Harper's closest friends and advisers, former Conservative Party strategist Ken Boessenkool -- a lobbyist whose clients have included Taser International -- has opted to oversee his kids' education at home in Calgary.

Still, the biggest revolution is not in the size or the makeup of the movement but its public image -- a shift summed up in the title of a 2007 Fraser Institute study, "Homeschooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream." In 1985, only 16 per cent of Canadian families approved of homeschooling, but by 2001, the number had ballooned to 41 per cent.

Some experts tie that jump to mounting disaffection with a one-size-fits-all education system, but another reason for the surge is the stratospheric test scores that homeschooled students have racked up. Research shows that children taught at home regularly outperform students from both public and private schools. Almost every Canadian university now accepts students who have been educated by their parents, as do the top addresses in the American Ivy League.

No matter how astonishing their academic achievements, homeschoolers face the assumption that they're social misfits -- shy, reclusive and inept at interacting with their peers after a life sequestered around the family hearth. In fact, one Canadian study reported the contrary: most homeschoolers were involved in at least eight outside activities a week, from church groups and field trips to sports teams.

Paul Faris, executive director of Canada's Home School Legal Defence Association, argues that students who are educated by their parents may actually be better socialized than their public-school counterparts. "They don't look at people and think, 'If you're not in my class, we have nothing in common,'" he says.

'Out to change our culture'

Not that Faris is unbiased. The oldest of seven growing up on a goat farm in southwestern Ontario, he was homeschooled himself, and insists he never felt deprived. He played on local hockey teams, went to high-school dances and won a scholarship to the University of Western Ontario, where he graduated from law school.

Now married to another homeschooled graduate, he is the new spokesman for the movement in Canada, a fervent advocate for the cause who defends families in court against overzealous social workers and lobbies for greater parental rights on Parliament Hill. As he points out, every legal clampdown on homeschoolers is provoked by the same question: "Whose child is it anyway? Is it your child or the government's?"

Intense and goateed, Faris is careful to tailor his message to his audience, as required. On the phone with me, he is cautious and low-key, downplaying his organization's Christian underpinnings and American ties. But addressing an insider crowd at the OCHEC convention, he metamorphoses into an aggressive cheerleader for a movement that some critics see as one of the most radical wings of the religious right. Listening to him, it becomes clear that he is not simply championing some homespun, do-it-yourself educational alternative -- a retreat from the rowdiness of the secular mainstream.

For Faris and his American allies, homeschooling is a political act with a profoundly subversive goal: to groom a new generation of fiercely motivated evangelical leaders capable of taking their place in society's power centres and creating a form of Bible-based government.

With their ability to think outside the box and their enforced history as self-starters, homeschoolers are perfectly positioned to become "spiritual change agents who are advancing the Kingdom of God," Faris tells the OCHEC crowd. "Homeschooling I believe is the most important movement in Canada right now," he says, "because we're out to change our culture."

'Satan in the public school system'

How do you change a culture? In the homeschooling movement, the answer comes without hesitation: one child at a time.

At the OCHEC conference Faris brandishes figures from The Barna Group, the U.S. religious right's favourite pollster, which warns that, by the end of a public-school education, 70 per cent of evangelical children will have lost their core beliefs. "You're putting your five-year-old in something that's designed to destroy his faith for six or seven hours a day," Faris says. "You think you'll counter that with what you teach him at home for an hour a night?"

If Faris's rhetoric sounds alarmist, it turns out to be only a pale Canadian imitation of that proffered by his mentors at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in the U.S.

"Satan has a good thing going in the public school system," wrote HSLDA's former senior counsel, Christopher Klicka, in his primer, Homeschooling: the Right Choice. One of two Americans on Faris's Canadian board until his death late last year, Klicka blamed that demonic romp on the courts which, in the name of neutrality, have "censored God and His principles" right out of the classroom.

"The future of liberty in our country and the very survival of the family may depend on our commitment to homeschooling," Klicka wrote.

The same argument has galvanized the modern homeschooling movement since the early 1960s when Calvinist theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony first promoted home education as the cornerstone for reconstructing a Christian nation. Among those who latched onto Rushdoony's theories was Tim LaHaye, the San Diego pastor who was one of the key organizers of the Moral Majority. In 1980, in the midst of the Cold War, LaHaye took Rushdoony's attack on secular education a step further in Battle for the Mind, warning that liberals and humanists were waging a propaganda campaign in schools that was paving the way for a Soviet takeover.

Unlike LaHaye's later Left Behind thrillers, the book failed to make a dent on bestseller lists, but it did win one convert: a brash, born-again law student named Michael Farris -- no relation to Paul Faris -- who had turned the Washington state chapter of the Moral Majority into its largest branch. So impressed was Farris with Battle for the Mind that he became the author's protege. He landed a job as national director of Concerned Women for America, the anti-feminist lobby set up by LaHaye's wife, Beverly, and moved to the outskirts of Washington, D.C., where he and his wife, Vickie, began homeschooling their 10 kids.

But what began as a private experiment soon turned into a full-time crusade.

How the homeschooling movement was founded

In 1983, Farris founded the Home School Legal Defense Association and soon earned a reputation as a media-savvy evangelist for the cause, grabbing headlines for branding the American education system "a multi-billion-dollar inculcation machine." Taking on laws that made homeschooling illegal in 45 states, often by requiring parents to hold a teacher's certification, he turned HLSDA into one of the most effective Christian lobbies, championed by the likes of Joseph Farah, founder of the ultra-right-wing news website WorldNetDaily, who sees homeschooling as the equivalent of a Christian survivalist movement -- a choice that "denies the government school monopoly what it craves most: the minds and souls of your children."

HASLDA's coffers and membership rolls have grown from an initial 200 families to more than 82,000 and expanded to Brazil, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. In 1994, Dallas R. Miller, an Alberta lawyer and homeschooling father of five, opened a Canadian branch in Red Deer, complete with HSLDA's U.S. logo, mission statement and two of Farris' top lieutenants on its board.

A year later, Miller played a key role in a Canadian case that sent shivers through homeschoolers across the continent. In Newfoundland, a Seventh Day Adventist couple was charged with truancy for refusing to enroll their children in public schools, despite the fact that they had asked two different school boards to OK a curriculum drafted by their church. When they still refused to comply, social workers descended on their home, seizing their three kids, including a five-year-old not yet legally required to be in class, and placing them in foster care for 10 traumatizing months.

A judge finally overturned the order, but Miller later cited it as an example of bureaucracy gone wild, the sort of consequences that could arise from the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which the homeschooling movement opposed as a direct threat to parents' rights.

In Virginia, Michael Farris decided to use his homeschooling celebrity as a springboard to politics, running for the lieutenant governor's job. But in a 1993 race that commanded national attention, his rivals had no trouble painting him as an extremist, a pal of Jerry Falwell's who had once tried to ban The Wizard of Oz from schools. His political career was over before it began, but he was determined to ensure that a new generation of young evangelicals would not meet the same fate.

Welcome to Patrick Henry College

In September 2000, in a former cornfield outside Purcellville, Virginia, Farris threw open the doors to a cluster of red brick, neofederalist buildings that he christened Patrick Henry College, an elite training ground for the cream of the Christian homeschooling crop.

Financed in part by the profits from Tim LaHaye's Left Behind bestsellers, the college has been dubbed "Harvard for homeschoolers," but its goal was not merely to create a fundamentalist version of the Ivy League. Farris set out to produce a new breed of crack spiritual warriors who could take over key seats of influence in government, law, business and even Hollywood.

As he saw it, his own generation had played the role of Moses, bringing Bible believers to the brink of political power. Now, it was time for a new generation -- what he calls "the Joshua generation" -- to lead the way into the promised land, establishing a true Christian nation in Rushdoony's theocratic mold. As Farris likes to tell every class, "You are the tip of the spear."

A decade after its opening, Patrick Henry boasts a waiting list. Skeptics rolled their eyes when Farris told the New York Times that some parents expected him to churn out a new crop of Christian Supreme Court justices, but four years later, they were stunned into respectful silence when Patrick Henry's debaters beat the Oxford University team in an international mootcourt competition staged in England under British law -- a triumph they repeated the following year.

Prepared to 'take back the land'

Still, Farris's overriding goal is to groom Christian foot soldiers who will, as he euphemistically puts it, "take back the land." Students collect academic credits for working on election campaigns -- almost all of them toiling for Republicans -- and courses include hands-on instruction on how to run a politician's office and interpret polling results.

But it is the college's mandatory three-month internships in government that have turned its rolls into a farm team for Washington's right-wing power structure. In 2004, that program came to light when one sharpeyed media scribe noticed that, of 100 interns in George Bush's White House, seven were from tiny Patrick Henry, an institution so obscure that few liberals were even aware of its existence. One of those students worked as an aide to Bush's shadowy strategist, Karl Rove.

Known for their unwavering patriotism and Puritan work ethic, Patrick Henry grads have also been sought out by the military and the CIA, and dozens now work as full-time congressional aides or analysts within the bureaucracy which makes up Washington's powerful permanent village. When talking to the mainstream media, Farris downplays the implications of seeding politics and the public service with his young Christian guerillas. "The goal is not a political coup or the establishment of a new Israel," he wrote in The Joshua Generation. "It is about raising men and women of faith who, because they love God, refuse to sit silently by while their nation hates what He loves and loves what He hates."

For most Canadians, Patrick Henry College sounds like a pipe dream -- yet another product of the superior numbers and zeal of the American religious right that could never happen here. What few seem to realize is that such an institution already exists in this country, one that shares many of the same aims and access to power, and is already making its mark on Parliament Hill.

Driving north from Langley, British Columbia, past ragged woodlots and weathered horse barns, it's not difficult to miss the turnoff to Trinity Western University. No triumphal gates mark the entrance to the country's leading evangelical institution of higher learning tucked away in this rural pocket of the Fraser Valley.

Vancouver is half an hour's drive to the west and Ottawa seems light years away, but it was here in the rolling fields of the former Seal Pak Dairy Farm that the elders of the Evangelical Free Church planted their vision of a Christian institution of higher education unlike the countless Bible colleges dotting the country: a private liberal-arts college with a distinguished reputation and an undisguised political aim -- to "develop godly Christian leaders."

It was a grandiose goal for a school whose beginnings were humble in the extreme. Making its debut in 1962 as Trinity Junior College, its first 17 students took lectures in the old farmhouse and played sports in the refurbished barn. The only new structure on the grounds was a gull-winged chapel that doubled as a dormitory and library when not in use for the mandatory daily prayer service. Now, nearly 50 years later, on a manicured campus strewn with bustling low-rises -- each bearing some wealthy benefactor's name -- the chapel sits condemned, fenced off like some mid-century-modern relic of the school's long struggle for respectability.

That struggle entailed decades of government lobbying and a lawsuit before the Supreme Court, but today most of Trinity Western's 4,000 students sail between classes blissfully unaware of the controversy that dogged its ascension to a unique niche in the country's academic pantheon.

On the road to university status

Most are drawn by its cozy communal atmosphere and a top spot in the Globe and Mail's annual ranking of small universities where it has scored an A+ for quality of education and faculty interaction -- with no class larger than 20 students -- but a D for its proximity to the nearest pubs.

For many evangelical parents, that lack of temptation is precisely the reason they dispatch their offspring to a school that requires every enrollee to sign a 13-page Responsibilities of Membership agreement that bans smoking, drinking, swearing, drugs and dabbling in the occult, while noting that the university "does not condone dancing at clubs where alcohol is liberally consumed." Abortion is included in the list of forbidden activities, as are all coed living arrangements, even off-campus, and the separate dorms reserved for men and women have regulated hours for commingling. "Sexual intimacy is to be practiced only within the context of marriage between a husband and a wife," the agreement states.

It was precisely those stipulations that kept Trinity Western University classified as a two-year junior college for more than a decade, and in the 1970s, with B.C.'s New Democratic government adamantly opposed to recognizing any private religious institutions, that status seemed unlikely to change. The school's only hope lay in a private member's bill sponsored by a Social Credit MLA, which had been put off until the last day of the spring legislative session in 1979.

Then, with 20 minutes left on the clock, the premier, Dave Barrett, suddenly stood up and walked out. It turned out that Barrett, who'd been educated by Jesuits, had agreed to support the measure but felt philosophically compelled to sit out the vote. As cries of "hypocrite" and "mugwump" flew across the chamber, the bill squeaked through in what Bob Burkinshaw, Trinity's dean of social sciences, hails as "one of the most significant religious events in a century."

Most of the country's major universities had been founded as religious institutions, Burkinshaw points out, but all have since been secularized. "It was the first time in a century there was a new university in Canada that was confessional," he says. "Basically, it broke the state monopoly on higher education."

'Evolutionism' as enemy

Still, it would be another five years before the powerful Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada would confer its official imprimatur on Trinity Western.

The sticking point was a doctrinal statement, which even members of the science faculty must sign, acknowledging the biblical account of creation. A committee of university presidents swooped in to grill Jack Van Dyke, the chemistry professor who then headed Trinity Western's science department, on whether the college taught evolution. "My answer was yes," Van Dyke says, "but you need to understand that we teach evolution within a context and that context is creation. Anybody who says there is no evolution is not opening their eyes -- you just have to look at the mutation of viruses -- but what we at Trinity try to avoid is 'evolutionism,' which is a religion."

That response might have sent shock waves through most mainstream science faculties, as would the university's later "Statement on Creation," which includes a nod to intelligent design, but after a year of heated debate, the association finally recognized Trinity Western's degrees for international accreditation. "They were satisfied that we weren't hiding theories from our students," Van Dyke says.

Still, even today, in an interview with me in the university cafeteria, he admits to a foundational belief that "God created mankind" and vents his pique at newspaper headlines that refer to apes as the ancestors of humans.

So what would he say to those evolutionary biologists who insist that God had no part in the origins of the universe? "Well, I feel sorry for those people!" Van Dyke exclaims, slapping the table. "They've missed the richness of life."

Battle to train teachers

Buoyed by its newfound status, Trinity Western launched a decade of feverish expansion, adding an interdenominational seminary, nursing school and faculty of education, but once again, its Christian precepts threw up a stumbling block. For years, its education students had to spend their final year at Simon Fraser University in order to win certification from the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT), but, in 1995, a BCCT committee finally signalled that Trinity Western had met the necessary conditions to grant its own teaching degrees.

Then, at the eleventh hour, one official noticed the definition of marriage in the "Responsibilities of Membership" agreement. While it didn't declare homosexuality a sin, its assertion that marriage was reserved for a man and a woman left little doubt about its implication. At a time when the Correns had just overturned the Surrey school board's ban on same-sex storybooks, the university suddenly found its application rejected on the grounds that the teachers it trained might spread a disapproval of homosexuality in the province's public schools.

As the veto unleashed protests from conservative Christians across the country, Trinity Western filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, which eventually landed in the Supreme Court. Half a dozen evangelical organizations filed supporting briefs, including the Christian Legal Fellowship, represented by Dallas Miller of the Home School Legal Defence Association.

But for Trinity Western, the case also provoked institutional soul-searching. Some uncompromising evangelical allies urged the university to use it as a direct constitutional challenge to the concept of gay rights, and an Alberta group offered to foot the legal bill. Despite the temptation, Trinity Western's legal team declined to turn its quest for academic standing into yet another vitriolic clash in the culture wars.

"We decided we weren't going to go on the attack," Burkinshaw says. Besides, the university didn't need the proffered funds. "We had more donors for that case," he says with a chuckle, "than for any other campaign."

On May 17, 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the B.C. College of Teachers had failed to prove that Trinity Western students exhibited anti-homosexual bias. Merely holding a belief, it said, did not necessarily translate into discriminatory acts. In Langley, there was jubilation. Now students no longer had to contemplate concealing their faith like some humiliating skeleton in the closet that might block them from their chosen careers, but the ruling also had implications far beyond the campus. In Calgary, constitutional lawyer Gerry Chipeur, who had intervened in the case on behalf of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, called it "the most important freedom-of-religion decision that the Supreme Court has ever made."

Had the B.C. College of Teachers succeeded, he argued, it could have squelched the professional aspirations of evangelicals in every field across the country. "They would basically have kept all Christians out of public service," Chipeur says now. "Not just teachers, but doctors, nurses and lawyers -- even judges."

The ruling came at a convenient time. Months earlier, Trinity Western had embarked on a mission not unlike that of Patrick Henry College in the U.S.: to put more evangelicals on the fast track to jobs in the civil service and the country's political power structure.

Grooming for public service

On a flight from Ottawa to Vancouver, a Trinity Western official got a confidential tip from his seatmate: an historic mansion in Ottawa was going on the market for a song. For Don Page, the dean of graduate studies at the university, the news was the answer to a decade-old prayer. A former Ottawa mandarin, Page had been lured to Trinity Western to groom a new generation of Christians for the federal public Service -- a determination fuelled, in part, by his own disenchantment.

As a senior policy adviser in the External Affairs Department, stickhandling international crises, he had been appalled when some of the country's most promising young diplomats were caught smuggling contraband and accepting bribes. "These were not stupid people," he recalls, "but they didn't see anything wrong with what they were doing. In fact, they'd rationalize it: 'You aren't paying us enough so we have to make money on the side.'"

To Page, who had started a Bible study group at External Affairs and inspired prayer cells in 30 other departments under the Public Service Christian Fellowship, there was only one solution: to enlist more people of faith in the government. "I realized we had to find a better class of public servant," he says, "and Trinity Western was the only university that was committed to doing something about it."

But for more than a decade after his arrival, as he lectured on servant leadership in every faculty and laid the groundwork for a master's degree in the subject, Page had watched the essential ingredient of his scheme -- a hands-on internship program in Ottawa -- bog down in a bizarre tangle of interprovincial red tape.

He was ready to shelve his dream when he got the news that the Metcalfe Street mansion built by J. R. Booth, the lumber baron who had supplied the timber for the original Parliament Buildings, had been put up for sale by the dwindling membership of the elite Laurentian Club. Not only was it an ideal location for Trinity Western's interns, it was an architectural gem -- a certified national historical site which would give the obscure western university a prestigious satellite campus in the capital.

Moving into God's mansion

In March 2001, Trinity Western took possession of its new Laurentian Leadership Centre for less than $2 million, and for Page, the million dollar renovation became a labour of love. In the summer of 2002, he and his wife camped out in Ottawa with an interior decorator to put the finishing touches on the restoration, polishing the mansion's eight marble fireplaces and its antique sterling silver sconces, even handwashing all two hundred crystal pendants in the giant chandelier that Booth had given his daughter as a wedding present.

Still, it wasn't those palatial digs alone that turned the Laurentian Leadership Centre into an unprecedented evangelical training ground.

Contacting MPs and former colleagues across the capital's bureaucracy, Page rustled up three-month unpaid internships that have become the envy of other student programs in the capital. Under the contracts he drafted, every intern receives a semester's worth of real work writing speeches or policy papers with no fear of being used as a glorified secretary.

In September 2002, the centre's first class of 23 students fanned out to assignments in almost every government department and key capital power centres like the Ottawa Citizen and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Nearly a dozen found themselves on the staff of MPs, including Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day, and two of their most eager bosses were Chuck Strahl and Diane Ablonczy, both of whom are Trinity Western alumni.

So intent was Page that his charges make a good impression, he gave them tutorials on etiquette and office dress codes. Not that he was worried they would show up for work nursing hangovers: for once, Trinity Western's moral code was a plus. "They recognized they were going to get a student with strong moral values," he says. "That's what every MP wanted to know: can I trust this student with documents?"

'Onward Christian soldiers'

To run the centre, Page enlisted Paul Wilson, who had arrived in Ottawa in 1994 to work as director of research for Preston Manning's Reform Party, and stayed on to perform the same duties for Stockwell Day.

Later, Wilson would serve as senior policy adviser for one of the most hard-line evangelicals in Harper's new government, former justice minister Vic Toews. But before he left the Laurentian Leadership Centre for that post, he helped organize Manning's first Ottawa conference on faith and politics, coaching the newly elected crop of evangelicals in Harper's caucus on how to navigate the pitfalls facing Christians in public life.

At the time, Wilson was furious at press reports that compared the Laurentian Leadership Centre to Patrick Henry College. "This is not a political training program," he told the Ottawa Citizen. "It's about understanding citizenship and faith."

Not everyone at the paper appears to have accepted that disclaimer.

"Onward Christian soldiers," read the headline, hinting that, like Michael Farris, Wilson was bent on grooming Canada's own Joshua generation for government. "Evangelicals are mobilizing in Ottawa to put their stamp on public policy and opinion."

At 8:20 on a Wednesday morning in October 2007, students litter the magnificent, main-floor salons of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, some sprawled on damask sofas under priceless antique tapestries, others straggling out of the eat-in kitchen, a dazzling mix of marble and stainless steel that could pass for an upscale Italian café. But as the clock strikes the half hour, they scramble up the panelled staircase to an ornate conference room for that day's class on politics and government.

Janet Epp Buckingham, who has replaced Paul Wilson as the centre's executive director, opens with a reading from the book of Joshua, whose hero led the Israelites across the Jordan River to conquer Jericho. "We have an example of some pretty serious leadership here," Buckingham observes. "Joshua is the guy who gets things done. He got a very clear message from God and the Bible says people followed Joshua without hesitation."

As she points out, the same could not be said about the two prime ministers whom her students are profiling that day. Matt Pasiuk, a business major from Abbotsford who has spent his entire academic life in Christian schools, is upbeat about his subject, Brian Mulroney, praising him for the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. while slamming his imposition of the "horrendous" Goods and Services Tax. But Pasiuk seems hazy on the failed Meech Lake Accord -- "It's a bit over my head," he says -- and he makes no mention of the corruption charges then hanging over Mulroney, a lapse that Buckingham chooses to leave unexplored.

Reporting on Kim Campbell's ill-fated four months in power, Irene Cadrin, a political-science student from northern Alberta, appears to view the country's only female prime minister with undisguised scorn.

"She's very popular among the feminist movement in Canada," Cadrin says in a tone that makes clear this is not a desirable distinction. "She's their poster girl." Cadrin barely mentions Campbell's tenure as justice minister, but notes that when she was in the B.C. legislature, she fought restrictions on abortion and has the most "complicated" marital situation of any prime minister. "She was married once, she was married twice, then she didn't bother to get married again," Cadrin says, making no attempt to mask her disapproval.

Only weeks earlier, the National Post had run a flattering, full-page profile of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, celebrating it as a new haven for the "sharpest edge of intellectual evangelical Christianity," but on the day I visit there is little evidence of that acuity. If this is history filtered through a biblical worldview, it is a version that seems hopelessly skewed by conservative bias and a marked disregard for the facts. When students refer to the Toronto Star as "the Red Star" and deride Canada as a "welfare state," I feel as if I've stumbled into the ornate clubhouse of some fresh-faced relics from the Reagan era.

Photos with the PM

That impression only deepens after a mid-morning break when Buckingham steers the discussion to the Charter of Rights, her own legal specialty. As the former chief counsel of the Evangelical Fellowship, she had been one of the leading advocates for the Christian right and, during the incendiary same-sex marriage debate, she won a reputation as a reasonable and nuanced voice. Today, however, Buckingham makes little attempt to temper the arguments of her students who, almost without exception, slam the Charter as "bad" or "frightening" and a threat to evangelical Christians. Decrying the fact that the courts "have gone too far on social issues," she notes that religion in Canada has been "privatized," as she puts it, which turns out to mean that it has been banished from the public sphere.

Sitting in on the discussion, it seems no wonder that critics see the centre as an elite finishing school for Harper's Conservatives. Every class has been invited to a photo session with the prime minister, and his office has hosted at least one intern each semester. Despite the centre's repeated insistence that it is non-partisan, a seven-year review of its internships shows that, of the fifty-one MPs who employed students, 42 were Conservatives -- most of them evangelicals. It's a critique for which the students themselves are well prepared.

"Sometimes I can see people trying to paint us as a Conservative breeding ground," Matt Pasiuk volunteers, unasked, after class. "But there's a lot of different views here. In the halls or at dinner time, there are some pretty interesting arguments about things like abortion and same-sex marriage."

Pasiuk's internship with his Conservative MP, Ed Fast, whose daughter was a friend back in Abbotsford, convinced him he would never want a career in politics, but for others, the experience has opened coveted doors. Matthew Laine had never set foot in Ottawa before he arrived at the centre, but, interning with the Green Party, he discovered an organization in chaos where he could carve out his own niche. After two weeks helping out in a cliff-hanger of a provincial campaign, he felt "totally empowered. I was calling these bureaucrats all over Ontario on behalf of candidates to get them registered," he says. "It was pretty cool."

Laine snagged a seat on the party's youth council, and months after graduating from Trininty Western, he landed the Greens' nomination in the B.C. riding of Delta-Richmond East, where he racked up 8 per cent of the 2008 vote. A year later, he ran in the provincial election, and he argues that a Green Party candidacy is consistent with his faith. "If you want to be a Christian, you need to be a good steward of the planet," he says.

Still he admits his wariness of hyper-righteous rhetoric. "I say, prove to me you're a Christian," Laine says. "It can't be just a now-and-then thing. That's why the pro-life movement bugs me. It's okay to be pro-life, but I say, 'Be pro all life -- be pro the homeless guy, not just pro-fetus.'"

With those views, Laine admits he was the ideological odd man out at the centre -- "pretty much the token liberal," he says.

Succeeding at their missions

Many Laurentian Leadership Centre alumni have gone on to work for Conservative MPs or cabinet members, and Jared Kuehl, a graduate of the Laurentian Leadership Centre's first class, went straight from university to a job in the issues management branch of Harper's office.

Another graduate, Mark Penninga, has taken another sort of political path. After an internship with Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, Penninga landed a job as a spokesman for Focus on the Family Canada before founding his own Christian nationalist lobby, the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), backed by the country's Reformed churches. Announcing its arrival on the political scene, he threw a Parliament Hill seminar for MPs co-hosted by Vellacott and the Liberals' leading evangelical, John McKay, which featured a lecture from a respected Christian Reformed theologian entitled "God and Government: A Biblical Perspective on the Role of the State."

While the seminar was an exercise in gentility, ARPA's website is less so. "Canada is perishing -- both physically and spiritually -- because we have turned our back on God," it declares. One of the main objects of its wrath is the Corren agreement, which Penninga paints as a threat to religious freedom. "In the name of tolerance," he argues, "tolerance is being thrown out the window."

Was this then what Don Page envisaged for the country's Joshua generation? Page answers by recounting a moment when, watching the proceedings of a parliamentary committee on television, he noticed three familiar figures in the front row. All were Laurentian Leadership Centre graduates, researching departmental policy papers or speeches for MPs. "Where else do we see another university having such a positive influence?" he beams. "I'm hearing that our students are the people MPs want to hire in their offices."

At least 30 of the centre's young Christian soldiers have won jobs in Ottawa's permanent policy-making apparatus and every semester produces new recruits. That is no mean accomplishment at a time when the federal civil service is facing an imminent labour crisis, aging faster than the general population, with one-third of its members due for retirement within the next decade.

Nor is it a development that Stephen Harper would frown upon. Before he was prime minister, Harper railed against the liberalism of the civil service, and Trinity Western is not alone in attempting to help him reverse that tilt. More than a dozen well-regarded Christian colleges and universities now exist in this country, and the Conservatives are quietly fostering their growth. When economic stimulus funds were being doled out, Harper funneled more than $26 million their way, including $2.6 million to Trinity Western -- a windfall that was announced by Conservative MP Mark Warawa, a TWU alumnus himself.

What effect those graduates will have on Canadian politics remains to be seen, but as Page recalled from his experience with the Public Service Christian Fellowship, it doesn't take huge numbers to get things done on Parliament Hill. He once managed to solve an overseas crisis with phone calls to senior bureaucrats he knew from departmental prayer cells, and he credits the backstage intercessions of a handful of evangelical mandarins with convincing cabinet ministers to take a stand on tobacco advertising.

"In today's society, there are important issues and Christians have a role to play," he says. "I think our students are already influencing the thinking of government."

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