CALGARY — The Wildrose party went into damage-control mode Sunday after one of its candidates’ anti-gay rants raised the ire of many voters and prompted Premier Alison Redford to warn Albertans about who they want to run their province.
The controversy stems from a blog written by Allan Hunsperger, a pastor who’s running as a Wildrose candidate in Edmonton South, in which he warned against accepting gays and lesbians for who they are.
In his comments, written in June, 2011, Hunsperger criticized the Edmonton Public School Division’s views of accepting students for who they are and used Lady Gaga’s album, Born this Way as part of his analogy.
“You see, you can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.”
With only one week left before the election, Redford wasted no time joining in the condemnation of the comments that quickly spread to social media.
“The fact that there are people who think that’s a legitimate perspective just absolutely blows my mind,” Redford told reporters at a Calgary campaign stop.
“I think they’re shocking and I think it goes back to Albertans are about to decide who is going to govern their province. They are going to have to decide who their premier is. They’re going to have to decide who the cabinet is,” she added.
“If we have people like this making these sorts of comments in Alberta I think it’s absolutely wrong and of course I disagree with it.”
Just hours after Redford’s comments, the controversial posting was taken down. In a short message posted on the same website, Hunsperger defended his comments.
“The views I expressed in this blog posting are my own personal religious views and were given in the capacity as a church pastor,” he wrote.
“I fully support equality for all people, and condemn any intolerance based on sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic.”
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said she was aware of Hunsperger’s religious views and made it clear that they won’t have any effect on her party’s policy if it forms government.
“Our party is not going to legislate on contentious social issues,” Smith said on Sunday.
“I also said in the debate that we recognize that people have a great diversity of viewpoints … it’s not unique to our party.”
On Saturday she told reporters that none of her candidates had experienced a “bozo eruption.” She said they were disciplined and would do a good job if elected.
“When a person is making personal statements in their capacity as a pastor, which he was, I don’t think anybody should be surprised that they’re expressing certain viewpoints,” she said.
She said Hunsperger understands and accepts the party’s policy on contentious social issues.
Many people took to Twitter to express their views on the controversy.
“I’m concerned that a party with a transparency pledge, seems to have so much to hide” read one tweet.
Another one suggested the candidate’s Twitter profile should read “Wildrose candidate dedicated to representing Albertans who I approve of.”
Redford has speculated that there are other extreme views within Smith’s party. She is critical of a Wildrose demand of a $1,000 good conduct bond that isn’t returned to failed nominees until after the election campaign is over. Smith said it was meant to prevent unhappy former nominees from “sabotaging” the campaign.
“I think that is undemocratic. I think that if you have a political party and you have people who run for nominations that those people are still members of the party, are still entitled to have points of view,” she said.
“I don’t know what they would or wouldn’t say but the fact as a party that they are worried about that I find ridiculous.”