An Edmonton-area pastor running for provincial office retreated from a year-old blog entry Sunday, taking it offline after complaints about his views on gay rights and the province's secular education system.
Allan Hunsperger, a pastor and founder of private religious schools who is running in an Edmonton riding, keeps a blog through his church. One entry from June 5, 2011, since taken offline, began spreading on social media sites this weekend - what Mr. Hunsperger describes as a "sequel to Lady Gaga's CD, 'Born This Way.'" (The song has been described as a gay anthem.)
Mr. Hunsperger doesn't buy it, turning to Biblical imagery to guide readers away from the singer's message. The thrust of the post was that humans are inherently flawed when born, and must hold themselves to a higher Christian standard.
"You see, you can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering," he wrote, cutting more to the point at the end of the post: "Accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving!"
The post also includes a condemnation against the "godless" public education system ("the blind leading the blind," Mr. Hunsperger writes) and recalls a conversation with "two men who were homosexuals" who he and his wife met in San Francisco 30 years ago.
Mr. Hunsperger didn't immediately return calls on Sunday, but posted a statement to his website after removing the blog in question:
"Recently, a blog posting I had written in the past has been widely circulated and has caused some controversy regarding my personal religious views. The views I expressed in this blog posting are my own personal religious views and were given in the capacity as a church pastor. I fully support equality for all people, and condemn any intolerance based on sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic. I also entirely support Danielle Smith in her commitment that a Wildrose government will not legislate on contentious social issues."
Mr. Hunsperger has founded private religious radio stations as well as private religious schools - his blog makes it clear he thinks Christian families should avoid Alberta's education system altogether. These may simply be his views, but he's running for the Wildrose party in Edmonton-Southwest. The Wildrose platform has been criticized for some policies that aren't gay-friendly.
For instance, Wildrose members voted last year to support conscience rights, which allow professionals to opt out of services on the basis of religious objections (such as a marriage commissioner performing a same-sex ceremony). They also oppose a comprehensive Education Act, which didn't pass in time before the campaign began, because Wildrose said it threatened the rights of religious home-school parents by forcing them to teach in keeping with the Human Rights Act, including gay rights (the other three parties said the education bill doesn't change home schooling). Finally, Wildrose also opposes section three of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which bans public statements that are discriminatory on any one of a series of grounds, including sexual orientation. It would repeal it and do away with the Human Rights Commission altogether, sending cases to the courts.
As his blog post spread, it racked up comments - 6,700 by Sunday afternoon, with the recent comments overwhelmingly negative. It was taken offline shortly afterwards.
Wildrose isn't the only party with similar factions. PC leader Alison Redford has also said she'll also repeal section three (saying, like Wildrose does, that it infringes on free speech) and her energy minister, Ted Morton, once headed the Alberta Civil Society Association and has long been an outspoken proponent for traditional marriage. He was among those who urged former premier Ralph Klein to invoke the notwithstanding clause to block Charter status for sexual orientation rights. In a 2003 editorial, Prof. Morton wrote that "the idea that homosexual marriage is a right is a judge-made affair from start to finish," saying gay marriage was never intended as a Charter right. The PCs also passed Bill 44 in 2009, which allows parents to pull their children from a classroom when issues of sexual orientation are discussed. Gay rights advocates have long said the law is discriminatory.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Ms. Redford have both publicly stated their support for gay marriage, and Ms. Smith has said Wildrose won't legislate on social issues under her leadership. On Sunday, the Wildrose leader reiterated that pledge, but sought to defuse the outcry. "When a person is making personal statements in their capacity as a pastor, which he was, I don't think anybody should be surprised that they're expressing certain viewpoints," Ms. Smith told The Canadian Press. She didn't admonish Mr. Hunsperger's blog, but said he understood the party has no intention of pushing a social agenda if elected.