Chris Kempling and the BCCTJ. FRASER FIELD
The first two freedoms guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are "freedom of conscience and religion" and "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression". But much has changed in Canadian society since the Charter was written twenty years ago. Today freedom of religion and freedom of opinion and expression are routinely under attack, challenged, and frequently trumped by any number of competing rights in this country.
The British Columbia College of Teachers
is responsible for establishing standards for the eucation of teachers in B.C.
schools, issuing teaching certificates, and where necessary, suspending or canceling
You may recall several years ago that the BCCT
made the news when it refused to certify Trinity Western University's teacher
education program because TWU asked its students to uphold Christian standards
and refrain from "...premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual behaviour"
while attending the University.
It wasn't the restriction on premarital
sex and adultery that got the College hot and bothered. It was the suggestion
that homosexuality was something girls and boys shouldn't be engaged in at TWU.
The College maintained that even suggesting such a thing would bias the school's
graduates against homosexual persons and make them unsuitable to teach in B.C.
TWU appealed the College's decision to the B.C. Supreme Court
where they won their right to continue conucting themselves as a Christian institution
and have their teacher education school approved. The College responded by appealing
to the Supreme Court of Canada where they were smacked again by the court which
ordered them to certify the TWU program.
Well, the College is up to
its old tricks again. In May of this year they found Chris Kempling, a counsellor
in a Quesnel, B.C. high school and Chair of the Quesnel District Community Health
Council, guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the B.C. College of Teachers.
Kempling's crime wasn't the usual charge leveled against teachers facing
disciplinary action by the College sexual abuse. He was guilty of something
more heinous in the eyes of the College; he was guilty of raising concerns about
the pro-homosexual educational initiatives being promoted by the B.C. teachers'
After reviewing Kempling's articles on this matter, the College
declared "...everything that you have written in its entirety is derogatory
and discriminatory." Kempling is to be sentenced early in the New Year. He
could lose his job, but more likely he will be publicly censured and warned not
to repeat his offence at the risk of forfeiting both job and professional reputation.
I contacted Chris Kempling and asked him to send me a number of the articles
the College had reviewed in coming to their conclusion.
In my reading
Kempling's writing is the very model of the kind of charity, prudence, and restraint
that is absolutely necessary when raising concerns about the super-sensitive issue
of homosexual-friendly resources and our children.
The points Kempling
makes are well and clearly reasoned and, social scientist that he is, liberally
supported with responsible research from the social scientific literature. Though
a Christian, Kempling avoids arguments based on Biblical or religious precept.
His language is respectful of homosexual persons. He raises principled objections
and makes important distinctions and clarifications and expresses himself in a
thoughtful, balanced, and fair-handed way.
So what's the problem the
College has with the Kempling critiques? I don't believe for a minute it is "the
way" Chris Kempling has raised his concerns; he's done that well. Rather
I suspect it's "the fact" that he's dared to challenge the teachers'
union on this issue.
Given what I've seen from the College and the
teacher's union, any objections to homosexual programs, however reasonable and
principled those objections may be, are ipso facto intolerable.
other teachers I know don't like what's being put forward for the schools either.
The difference is, these teachers are afraid to speak up.
the College could surprise us all; it could offer Chris Kempling pecific guidelines
on how to more delicately raise his concerns without giving offense. It could
do what responsible educators do in the classroom and offer a written sample of
just how objections to this material might be raised in a manner the College finds
acceptable. It could even go so far as to demonstrate some integrity by responding
in detail to the specific problems Kempling has with the material and programs.
But I'll take my turn on Fear Factor if they do.
is that their final judgment will be pure and sweeping generalization. It has
to be. Given what Kempling has written I believe the College is incapable of making
a detailed critique that will stand up to scrutiny.
But I didn't want
all of this to be just my opinion. I consulted a couple of philosopher ethicist
types I know just to get a second opinion and I shared with them the Kempling
materials. My colleagues were in perfect agreement. While the Cllege said "everything"
my advisors said "absolutely nothing" they read could be considered
derogatory and discriminatory.
If I had any clout, I'd censure the College for conduct unbecoming a professional association, noting in my judgment that its treatment of Chris Kempling, has been "...in its entirety derogatory and discriminatory". Then, at the sentencing, I'd impose what I consider a just punishment. I'd require each executive member of the College to write out the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "derogatory" and "discriminatory" 100 times on the blackboard. And then I'd require them to write a 3000 word essay explaining why "freedom of conscience and religion" and "freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression" are the first freedoms guaranteed all Canadians under the Charter and why these freedoms need to be protected in Canada.
To get a taste of the kind of balanced writing that has landed Chris Kempling in so much hot water see Challenging Homophobia in Schools: A Critical Review
J. Fraser Field "Chris Kempling and the BCCT." Catholic Insight (February 2002).
Reprinted with permission of Catholic Insight.
J. Fraser Field is Executive Officer of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center (www.catholiceducation.org) and Western Media representative for the Catholic Civil Rights League.
Copyright © 2003 Catholic Insight
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.