Facing outcry over a blog kept by a pastor now running for the her party, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is walking a fine line, saying she won’t legislate on contentious social issues, but won’t censor religious factions in her party either.
A year-old blog entry by Allan Hunsperger spread quickly online over the weekend. In it, he implied that gay people were destined to an eternity in hell and deplored Alberta’s public school system as godless.
Ms. Smith told reporters Monday that it’s not surprising a pastor had those beliefs, but that she welcomed a diversity of opinion in her party. She echoed those comments Monday.
“Once again... a [Wildrose government]will not legislate on controversial social issues – [especially]those that have already been settled by the Supreme Court,” Ms. Smith wrote on Twitter. “I will represent all [Albertans]regardless of their race, religion, gender, politics or sexual orientation. Rights are rights are rights.”
Ms. Smith is pro-choice and pro-gay-rights, a libertarian at the head of a right-wing party that nonetheless is build on a significant base of social conservative support. In last week’s leaders’ debate, Ms. Smith welcomed that. “If we’re the only party that’s going to welcome people with strong religious views into our party, I’m happy with that,” she said. On Twitter Monday, she reiterated that she won’t censor people like Mr. Hunsperger.
“Just as important, I will never discriminate against a candidate, an MLA or indeed any [Albertan]because of their religious beliefs,” Ms. Smith wrote, adding that all the other parties have candidates with strong religious beliefs, too. The PCs, for instance, have an incumbent cabinet minister, Ted Morton, who has been a vocal critic of “judge-made law” and once fought against Charter protection for gay rights. But Wildrose has its fair share of candidates with controversial backgrounds.
The blog was taken offline and Mr. Hunsperger posted a statement saying they were his own “personal religious views” and that Wildrose won’t legislate on “contentious social issues.” He hasn’t returned phone calls seeking comment.