BCCLA set to intervene in Court of Appeal on teacher free speech case

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association will make its argument today in the case of Kempling v. College of Teachers. Mr. Kempling is the former Quesnel high school teacher and counselor whose letters to the editor in criticizing gays and lesbians were published in the local newspaper. As a result of his writings, the B.C. College of Teachers disciplined Mr. Kempling. Mr. Kempling sued the College alleging his Charter rights to free speech and religion had been violated.

The BCCLA is intervening to argue that the right of public servants to freedom of expression outside the workplace is constrained by their professional and public duties. The Charter can not protect employees from making statements that effectively prevent them from upholding their public responsibilities on the job. Those responsibilities are especially compelling when they involve the equality rights of vulnerable minorities like gay and lesbian youth.

According to BCCLA counsel Elliott Myers, Q.C., “The BCCLA vigorously defends free speech for all. But we also recognize its legitimate constraints and the Kempling case is a text book example of how a high school counselor must constrain his public utterances to ensure that they don’t interfere with his job of ensuring a tolerant, respectful and safe environment for gay and lesbian students.”

Two excerpts from Mr. Kempling’s letters caused the BCCLA particular concern:

“Some readers may be wondering why I am putting my professional reputation on the line over the homosexuality issue, and some are questioning my competence to counsel. … Sexual orientations can be changed and the success rate for those who seek help is high. My hope is that students who are confused over their sexual orientation will come to see me. It could save their lives.”

“I refuse to be a false teacher saying that promiscuity is normal, and immorality is simply ‘cultural diversity’ of which we should be proud. Section 95(2) of the School Act states that teachers must ‘inculcate the highest moral standards.’ To all my critics I say 2 Peter 2:4-19. Read it and weep.”