A Christian public school teacher in Canada has been suspended for one month without pay for criticizing homosexuality in letters to a local newspaper.
Chris Kempling of Quesnel, British Columbia, was found guilty of unbecoming conduct late last year by the B.C. College of Teachers. The panel asserted his letters to the editor, a research paper and other correspondence contained “discriminatory and derogatory statements against homosexuals,” the Vancouver Sun reported.
Teacher Chris Kempling (Vancouver Sun)
Though none of the statements in question were made in class, the panel said the writings indicated the veteran teacher’s attitude could poison the class environment.
One letter cited by the panel said: “Gay people are seriously at risk, not because of heterosexual attitudes but because of their sexual behaviour, and I challenge the gay community to show some real evidence that they are trying to protect their own community members by making attempts to promote monogamous, long-lasting relationships to combat sexual addictions.”
According to its rules, the teacher’s panel does not need to find direct evidence of a poisoned school environment to determine that a member is guilty of conduct unbecoming. The panel said, “It is sufficient that an inference can be drawn as to the reasonable and probable consequences of the discriminatory comments of a teacher.”
The teachers said they were disturbed by Kempling’s statements that homosexual relationships are unstable, ‘gay’ sex poses health risks and many religions consider homosexuality immoral.
The suspension is set to begin on May 1, but Kempling said he will appeal to the B.C. Supreme Court on the grounds that the decision violates Canadian Charter of Rights protections of freedom of expression and religion.
The secondary school teacher and counselor said he will argue that no professional regulatory body has ever punished members for off-site conduct that had no demonstrable impact on their work, the Vancouver paper reported.
Kempling insists that a one-month suspension was particularly harsh since teachers convicted of threats, assault, theft and flashing have received only letters of reprimand.
The teachers panel had planned earlier to give him a five-month suspension because he had not demonstrated any remorse, Kempling said. However, he told the Sun he regrets some of his strident words and unkind language.
“But it’s an important principle in the whole concept of free speech in our society that when a citizen feels strongly about a matter that they be able to present their arguments in a public forum . . . without having their employment put in jeopardy,” he said. “Especially when no evidence whatsoever was ever presented that there was harm or impact on the job.”
The panel argued the writings show Kempling doesn’t accept the core values of the education system, “which recognize that homosexuals have a right to equality, personal dignity and respect.”
John Dixon, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said earlier he did not think Kempling should lose his teaching position, but favored removing him as counselor because he favors his religious conscience over his professional duties.
“If there are gay students in that school – and you can bet your bottom dollar there are – they’re going to keep their heads down and they certainly are not going to resort to Mr. Kempling for advice,” he said.
Kempling said his Christian community has provided support, including $30,000 (Canadian) in donations.