A former Quesnel schoolteacher suspended by the BC College of Teachers for publicly expressing his anti-gay views will run in the next federal election.
Chris Kempling, now a marriage counsellor and member of the Christian Heritage Party [CHP], says he will lead the party on the ballot in the Kamloops-Cariboo riding.
Kempling says he is running to provide social conservatives with an alternative. “I just didn’t feel I had anyone that I could vote for in the last election,” he told Xtra.
While the CHP and the Conservative Party both agree on relaxing the gun registry, for example, Kempling says they differ on the issue of reproductive rights.
The CHP is anti-abortion and its staunch view on the issue sets its candidates apart from their running mates, Kempling says.
“No other party wants to take that position,” he acknowledges.
“We also want to eliminate personal tax and replace it with a fair national sales tax,” he says of other platform promises.
Kempling says he would also like to restore traditional marriage.
His campaign promises include a tax rebate of $12,000 annually per family, on the condition that one parent stay home and raise their school-aged children.
Asked if the rebate would apply to same-sex couples with children, Kempling says it would apply across the board. He says the current marriage law, particularly the no-fault divorce law, is a more worrisome issue for his party than the same-sex marriage debate.
But in 1997, Kempling openly began declaring his opposition to homosexuality, criticizing the use of anti-homophobia material in schools, through a series of letters he wrote to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer newspaper.
Kempling was later cited by the College of Teachers for “conduct unbecoming,” was suspended from his job and reprimanded by the Quesnel School District for discrimination.
He appealed the suspension through the BC court system, claiming the punishment infringed his right to religious freedom and expression.
The courts denied his appeal and upheld the College’s decision.
In his letters, Kempling condemned the inclusion of homosexual topics in school curricula, saying, “I refuse to be a false teacher saying that promiscuity is acceptable, perversion is normal and immorality is simply ‘cultural diversity’ of which we should be proud.”
Kempling also stated that homosexuality can be cured. “Sexual orientations can be changed, and the success rate for those who seek help is high,” he wrote.
Asked about the letters written over a decade ago, Kempling asserts his views have not changed.
“I stand behind everything I’ve written,” he told Xtra.
“My views of same-sex issues are based in what the Bible says about it,” he says.
Kempling also asserts that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice — especially for lesbians — and that reparative therapy (to make gays straight) is effective.
Queer education advocates question Kempling’s political platform and say his views on conversion therapy is weak.
“It is an archaic and medieval ideology and it’s not supported by the [teaching] profession,” says James Chamberlain, head of BC’s Pride Education Network, an organization that seeks to protect and advance gay rights in the BC public school system.
Chamberlain doubts Kempling, as a Christian Heritage candidate, will have much input in his district in the next election.
But Jim Hnatiuk, national head of the Christian Heritage Party, applauds Kempling.
“We certainly are backing Chris,” Hnatiuk says.
“We believe we have the right conservative party,” he says, adding that the Conservative Party has moved “to the left of centre.”
Hnatiuk says anything other than the traditional definition of marriage between a man and woman has “muddied the water for the government, courts and churches.”
Despite strong opposition from religion-based organizations like the CHP, Chamberlain says BC schools are becoming more accepting of queer students.
“We’re seeing more and more teamwork around anti-homophobia education as being the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s just a matter of giving them [educators] strategy and the tools for teaching.”
Last month the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Nanaimo-Ladysmith school districts joined nine others in BC in adopting anti-homophobia policies.