Breakenridge: Potential premiers shouldn’t pander to religious right

By Rob Breakenridge, Calgary Herald June 17, 2014

As Calgary marks the anniversary of the devastating flood of 2013, discussion will no doubt turn to why a vengeful God turned his wrath on our city and how we might appease this deity to avoid such smiting in the future.

Just kidding, no it won’t.

Well, in some circles it might. On the website of Calgary’s Street Church, for example, you’ll find a handy explanation of how God flooded Calgary because of legalized abortion and the “perversions of homosexuality” and such.

It just so happens that the Street Church held its annual March for Jesus this past Sunday. The event is described as a counter to the annual Calgary Pride parade, wherein the city’s streets are “flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences” who are “provoking greatly the wrath of the Living God.”

The most charitable thing to say at this point is that everyone is entitled to their own views. That, however, is a separate question from whether one should pander to those with such views.

That question is now being asked of PC leadership candidate Ric McIver. The former alderman and cabinet minister — who is no doubt familiar with Street Church from its many run-ins with city hall — is under fire for opening and participating in Sunday’s March for Jesus. He even tweeted a picture from the event.

In response to the ensuing furor, McIver released a statement on the controversy. He spoke of celebrating the diversity of Alberta, and distanced himself from the views of Street Church. He did not, however, criticize or condemn their hatred and intolerance.

If a particular group is opposed to diversity (the Street Church is also not fond of political leaders “praying to foreign gods”), then hobnobbing with them is a pretty lousy way of promoting diversity. Playing the diversity card, however, is a cop-out. McIver knew full well what he was doing and with whom, and it’s all about getting votes.

It’s not surprising that the would-be leaders of the Progressive Conservative party are appealing to past glory. The current state of the party is nothing to write home about, and so it makes sense to hearken back to the glory days. And while a Klein-era fiscal approach might be worthy of resurrecting, the last thing Alberta needs is the Klein-era pandering to religious and social conservatives.

Such voters still exist, though, and to win the Tory leadership, candidates are eager to secure every last vote they can find. No doubt there were some in attendance at the March for Jesus who appreciated McIver’s involvement and will now set forth to buy a Tory membership.

And while McIver might be the most obvious in trying to woo religious conservatives, he is not alone. During a candidates’ forum last Thursday, the issue of Section 11.1 of the Human Rights Act came up. Albertans might be more familiar with the name of the legislation that ushered in the change: Bill 44.

That section allows parents to pull their children out of classes if and when issues of sexuality or sexual orientation are being discussed. Of course, parents have always had the right to pull their kids out of class if they object to the subject matter. Section 11.1 requires that written notice be provided ahead of time, which is more about discouraging such topics than empowering parents.

While Thomas Lukaszuk called for a “robust discussion” over that provision, McIver vowed to fight to defend it. Jim Prentice also pledged to preserve Section 11.1. Whether these two really believe in this law or are simply pandering to those who support it is rather beside the point: the end result is the same.

The “lake of fire” types have been rightfully marginalized in Alberta. It would be disappointing — not to mention ironic — if the Tory leadership race were to once again give them influence.

The Rob Breakenridge Show airs weeknights from 9 to 11 p.m. on NewsTalk 770. rob.breakenridge@corusent.com

http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/op-ed/Breakenridge+Potential+premiers+shouldn+pander/9944547/story.html

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