Chris Kempling and the BCCT

J. 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.


Chris Kempling

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. A case in point is the matter of Chris Kempling in his struggle with the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT).

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 teaching certificates.

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. schools.

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' union.

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.

Many 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.

Of course 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.

My prediction 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.

NOTE: As of this writing the College has recommended that Kempling be suspended without pay from teaching in the province. The College executive will not say how many months they are asking the College membership to approve. The final verdict is expected at the end of February.

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

J. Fraser Field "Chris Kempling and the BCCT." Catholic Insight (February 2002).

Reprinted with permission of Catholic Insight.

THE AUTHOR

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



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