Sunday, December 2, 2007

Stelmach stands up for gays, shuts out Chandler

This is interesting. Alberta PC Premier Ed Stelmach has ousted Christian activist Craig Chandler as his party's candidate in the Calgary-Egmont riding for the next election.

Chandler's crime: a group he once headed broke Alberta human rights law when it posted on several websites a letter by Stephen Boissoin, a member of Concerned Christian Coalition. Boissoin's letter was originally published in a Red Deer newspaper and stated gay activists are "perverse, morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease" and these activists and those defending them are just as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps. The Alberta Human Rights Commission ruled Friday the letter was hate material. During deliberations, Boissoin admitted that, "Chandler was aware and supported what he was doing."

A few things strike me about this move by Stelmach:

1) Stelmach is a very different man than his predecessor Ralph Klein. I highly doubt Klein would've taken this sort of action. Concern for human rights was never high on Klein's agenda. This move confirms a move to the centre for Alberta's leadership.

2) Boissoin was very much guilty of spreading hate, as far as I can tell. His letter urged readers to take any and all action to fight the "wickedness" of homosexuality. Two weeks after his letter was published, a gay youth was attacked in Red Deer.

3) Chandler's association with Boissoin is clear. By publishing the despicable letter on various websites, Chandler endorsed its contents.

This incident should stand as a warning about the rhetoric that can be used in public discourse. Clearly, Boissoin went over the top with his vitriol. I would say the Alberta panel's ruling was very justified.

I've been following Chandler for a few years. He's an outspoken Christian activist with a high public profile. He once ran for the Reform Party and ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. Many of his public statements have always struck me as a "church" man toting the "church" line.

I once saw Chandler featured in a terrific CBC documentary entitled, "God Only Knows: Same Sex Marriage." The documentary showcased what happened when the pastor of a gay community church in Vancouver exchanged lives for two weeks with Chandler, billed as a socially conservative, religious-right lobbyist from Calgary. It was an incredible piece as both men seemed to get along well and find much common ground. They even came up with a compromise position on how to make same sex marriage acceptable to some Christians: get the government out of the marriage business altogether, only let churches conduct marriages and therefore not have to change the public definition of marriage (as there'd be no public, civil definition.) This would allow gay churches to conduct same sex marriages as they see fit.

The part of the documentary that most struck me was watching Chandler join his gay pastor friend at the gay community church in Vancouver. The off-the-cuff comments from Chandler witnessing the gay Christian celebration from the pews were very revealing. Away from the cameras, Chandler was heard telling the gay pastor's same sex partner that he could sense "God's presence here."

Chandler seemed much more reasonable than his public persona would have us believe. Yet this incident, posting a letter now deemed hate material on various websites, has come back to haunt him. I don't think Chandler is as bad as has been portrayed, at least on the gay issue. (His comments about people moving to Alberta having to adopt 'conservative principles or leave' were ill-advised, but hardly criminal.) In this incident, Chandler's merely guilty by association.

Chandler may not have a home anymore in Stelmach's Alberta PC Party. This is just politics.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Matt,

Please post one reference that proves that actually Stelmach stood up for gays and ousted Chandler sue to his position gay issues. Please don't post how the media spins the two issues together. Hey what a coincidence that the Alberta Human Rights Commission forwarded their decision the day before Chandler meets with the Premier and Executive.

Thanks

Roger