A controversial pastor running for Alberta’s Wildrose Party dominated news in that province again Monday after his leader doubled down in her support of him and audio clips from two of his sermons were released on YouTube.
Edmonton Southwest candidate Allan Hunsperger was thrust into the spotlight Sunday after a blog post in which he suggested gays and lesbians would burn in hell for all eternity if they chose to live they way they were born became public. Opponents have called for Hunsperger to step down. But on Monday Wildrose leader Danielle Smith stood by the preacher.
From the Edmonton Journal:
“The views he expressed are his personal views in the context of him being a pastor and I’m not going to discriminate against anyone, not on the basis of sexual orientation and not on the basis of their religion,” Smith said Monday, referring to her Edmonton South West nominee Allan Hunsperger. “I believe in freedom of religion and I believe religious people do have an opportunity and should be encouraged to run for political office.”
Smith’s defence didn’t impress Journal columnist Paula Simons, who called Hunsperger “an unabashed old-school homophobe who makes Rick Santorum look like a drag queen at a Pride Parade,” in her Tuesday column:
Hunsperger is entitled to his personal religious beliefs. The state cannot, should not tell pastors what to preach. Within his church, Hunsperger has a constitutional right to gay-bash as much as he pleases.
But Hunsperger isn’t just a pastor. He chose to stand for office. Smith’s Wildrose Party chose to elect and accept him as its nominated candidate. His public comments on gay rights and school board policy are entirely relevant to voters evaluating his fitness, and the fitness of his party.
Meanwhile, two heavily edited clips from Hunsperger sermons were also released online Monday. In one, he says that, in God’s eyes, the Holy Land belongs to Israel. In another, he suggests circumcision can prevent HIV (an idea for which there is considerable scientific evidence) and later that “the bubonic plague would not have happened if men had paid attention to the scripture.”
Finally, in actual policy news, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith doesn’t believe the science on climate change is settled, which is, itself, kind of unsettling.