May 13, 2003 Volume 17, Number 04
Suspended teacher quits
Chris Kempling vows to continue court challenge
By Frank Stirk | ChristianWeek BC Correspondent
QUESNEL, BC-Even before the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) handed him a one-month suspension for speaking his mind about homosexuality, high school teacher and counsellor Chris Kempling had decided to find a new career.
"It's been hard on my family," he told ChristianWeek, "and frankly I'm looking for employment outside the province.
"Our house is up for sale, and we're anticipating being out of here by July."
The BCCT ruled in April that Kempling's published statements questioning the wisdom of presenting children with a positive picture of the gay lifestyle were "demeaning and derogatory" and left little room for leniency.
While conceding that Kempling had never brought his faith-based opinions into the classroom-and despite no complaints from students, parents, teachers or even the gay community-the college nevertheless concluded that his "actions disclose a failure to uphold values that are fundamental to the education system and Canadian society, values that include sexual equality and respect for persons of differing sexual orientation."
The ruling suggested it was irrelevant that the alleged misconduct all occurred off-campus. "Mr. Kempling also used his status as a teacher to give authority and credibility to his views," it stated.
The severity of the sentence means he will be virtually blacklisted as a teacher anywhere in North America, Kempling says. "All of the teacher certification bodies on the continent get a copy of this."
Yet Kempling's decision to quit teaching had already been made-after he realized he could no longer count on the support of his own supervisors.
First, he claims, came a letter of discipline from his principal for having stated in class-as part of a mandated curriculum that includes human sexuality-that a person's sexual orientation can be changed through therapy.
When Kempling objected, the principal downgraded his censure to a letter of direction.
A few days later, he says, came another letter of discipline from his school's director of instruction for agreeing to let the CBC interview him for a documentary on his case.
In both instances, Kempling insists he had apprised the school of his actions in advance, and no one objected. And once again, no one had complained.
"I think it's a matter of optics," he says. "They just want to have it on the record that they 'did something about Kempling.'"
To some observers of the Kempling case-both Christian and non-Christian-it is the BCCT who is guilty of wrongdoing.
The Victoria Times-Colonist called it "strange" how the BCCT seems so concerned with "defending homosexuality"-and yet "can't bring itself to get rid of demonstrably rotten teachers, and can only issue reprimands to some who have had improper relationships with students or, in one recent case, flashed them."
Province columnist Susan Martinuk noted the college displayed the same anti-Christian bias when it tried to argue that the graduates of Trinity Western University's education program would likely be "homophobic"-also without any proof.
"Creating divisions and offences where none exist seems to be a major sport for the supposedly 'enlightened' bunch at BCCT," she stated.
"Many other teachers I know don't like what's being put forward for the schools either," wrote J. Fraser Field, western media representative for the Catholic Civil Rights League on its Web site. "The difference is, these teachers are afraid to speak up."
Yet Kempling's own battle with the BCCT remains far from over.
He says that wherever he relocates, he will still pursue his appeal of its verdict against him last November of "conduct unbecoming" a teacher. A hearing before the B.C. Supreme Court is due to be held this month.
Until that case is settled, Kempling's one-month suspension-which was to have begun May 1-is on hold.
"I'm going to see this the whole way through, even if it takes five years, because of the [free speech] principles involved," he says.
Kempling also has "no regrets whatsoever" for having taken on such a volatile moral issue as homosexuality. "I think I would have said things a little bit differently in my public letters," he concedes. "But I still would have taken a stand on this, because nobody else was taking a stand.
"I haven't shut up yet."