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Huron College professor denies homophobia allegations

Teacher claims Badcock made anti-gay statements in speech at Tanzanian school

Huron University College principal Stephen McClatchie states that his school does not condone homophobia in any way. 

The principal of a liberal arts college in London, Ontario — which is affiliated with the publicly funded Western University — says that his school does not condone discrimination in any shape or form, as one of the school’s professors denies homophobia allegations.

A Canadian teacher alleges that Gary Badcock, a professor at Huron University College, made homophobic comments while giving a keynote speech on Nov 8 at St Philip’s Theological College in Kongwa, Tanzania. Badcock, who teaches systemic theology, philosophy and ethics, was speaking as part of the Anglican school’s 100th-anniversary celebrations. St Philip’s was founded by Reverend Thomas Buchanan Reginald Westgate, who graduated from Huron College in 1914.

The teacher, who identifies as a lesbian, had taught at St Philip’s more than a decade earlier and was invited to the celebrations. She asked not to be identified because of safety concerns in Tanzania, where homosexuality is stigmatized.

In a letter sent to Huron University College principal Stephen McClatchie, the teacher alleges that Badcock described homophobia as a first-world problem, because people in Tanzania have to have children for economic needs and therefore can’t be gay. She also alleges that Badcock warned the audience that they should be worried about homosexuals coming to Tanzania to steal their children.

Xtra obtained a copy of the letter Nov 20. It was also reported on the homophobia-tracking blog Erasing 76 Crimes on Nov 16.

Badcock told Xtra that the allegations are untrue and unfounded and would not comment further on the issue. In a follow-up email, he wrote that “language barriers were obviously a factor.” According to the teacher who wrote the letter, she heard Badcock’s speech in English. 

In 2007, Badcock was signatory to a letter from 25 academic theologians who protested the Anglican Church’s decision to treat same-sex unions as a resolution rather than a doctrinal issue. “The letter that I signed objected to the unilateral process rather than to practice in the Canadian church,” Dr Badcock wrote in his email to Xtra. The Anglican Church of Canada does not yet have a formal position on gay marriage, though some individual dioceses have chosen to bless same-sex unions.

Xtra also contacted Bishop Given Guala, a Tanzanian Anglican official who reportedly was in attendance at the speech, and St Phillip’s school to ask if there was a recording of the event. Neither have responded to Xtra’s inquiries at time of publication.

While he would not comment further on personnel issues, McClatchie told Xtra that he had investigated the allegations and understands that Badcock denies them. “Regardless of how his comments may have been translated, heard or interpreted, I can categorically state that Huron does not condone discrimination in any way, shape or form,” McClatchie says, noting that he himself was hired by Huron University College as an openly gay, married man. “This is not an issue here.”

Same-sex relations are criminalized in both Tanzania and Zanzibar. Ezekiel Wenje, a Tanzanian MP, is reportedly working on an anti-gay bill that would essentially make it illegal to be openly gay.