BC Supreme Court Upholds Kempling Suspension for
Exercising “Free Speech”
February 3, 2004 – The BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC College of Teachers was within its rights to suspend high school teacher and student counsellor Chris Kempling for one month, without pay because of letters he wrote to the editor of his local newspaper which where critical of homosexuality.
In his Reasons for Judgment, The Honourable Mr. Justice Holmes writes, ” [T]he appellant’s publicly discriminatory writings undermine the ability of members of the targeted group, homosexuals, to attain individual self-fulfilment… Anything less restrictive than the sanction chosen by the BCCT (e.g. by issuing a reprimand only or no penalty at all) would not be an effective measure and might reasonably give rise to the perception that both the school system and the teaching profession condone the appellant’s publicly discriminatory conduct, or think little of it.”
Kempling himself explains, in a letter written to his supports, that Justice Holmes’ decision “means that teachers who happen to be Christians or who belong to other religions proscribing homosexuality may not comment publicly on this issue. It means that disciplinary bodies do not need to provide any evidence of impairment or harm at a professional’s workplace if they exercise their right to free speech in their off the job capacity. Inference of harm is sufficient to remove a teacher from his job. It is a serious blow to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
- Summary of events related to the Chris Kempling Case (BCPTFL website)
- Sample of Chris Kempling’s writing, Challenging Homophobia in Schools: A Critical Review By Chris Kempling M.Ed. M.A. R.C.C. December 31, 2000, (BCPTFL website)
February 04, 2004
It is a black day for religious freedom in Canada. Yesterday, Justice Ronald Holmes of the BC Supreme Court ruled that the BC College of Teachers was correct in suspending me for one month for letters to the editor written on my own time in my off the job capacity. He stated that my comments were discriminatory and could reasonably cause disruption to the school system. He implied that homosexual students would be unwilling to speak to me in my role as a school counsellor. Justice Holmes asserted that my published comments reduced my credibility as a teacher in the eyes of students, and the public.
There was no evidence presented that this was true. No evidence of a disrupted school environment was found. There were no complaints from students, parents, or my supervisors. All of my former administrators wrote letters stating that my public comments had no discernible impact on the operation of the school.
In fact, three former students interviewed by the CBC at the University of British Columbia said they weren’t even aware that there was a controversy at that time. Furthermore, Justice Holmes ignored the evidence before him that homosexual students received impartial service from me. In fact, a prominent homosexual interviewed by College investigators offered no opinion that what I had written pubicly was upsetting to homosexual people. Justice Holmes ignored evidence that my credibility as a teacher and community leader were not impaired, such as the fact that I was appointed to be Chair of the Community Health Council by the Minister of Health during this period, the highest non- elected appointment in our city, with responsibility for over 500 employees and a $22 million budget.
What does this mean? It means that teachers who happen to be Christians or who belong to other religions proscribing homosexuality may not comment publicly on this issue. It means that disciplinary bodies do not need to provide any evidence of impairment or harm at a professional’s workplace if they exercise their right to free speech in their off the job capacity. Inference of harm is sufficient to remove a teacher from his job. It is a serious blow to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
I intend to appeal this ruling to the BC Court of Appeal. But I cannot do this alone as the College of Teachers has unlimited funds at their disposal. Most importantly, I need your prayers as I continue this fight for religious freedom and freedom of speech. Donations can be made to the Christian Public School Teachers’ Legal Defence Fund c/o Mr. Jim Sagert, Trustee 798 Beaubien Ave, Quesnel, BC V2J 1A6, or at any branch of the Royal Bank, Transit #4720, Account #101-030-5.
I thank you for those who have already donated or sent messages of support and encouragement. Believe me, they have been much appreciated as it has been quite hard on my family in the past four years. But I am determined to see this through. I am a Christian first and a teacher second, and I will not compromise my faith or keep silent about what I believe.