Shunned Christian youth event to feature anti-inclusivity curriculum talk: speaker
A controversial speaker at a planned Christian youth conference that's been shunned from New Westminster's Anvil Centre would have taught kids how to push back against B.C.'s sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum.
It's unclear whether the Get-A-Grip 2018 event will go ahead in another venue, but speaker Kari Simpson said part of the program would have addressed religious concerns over SOGI 123, a school curriculum intended to protect gay and transgender students.
Simpson, an activist who runs the Culture Guard website, is an outspoken critic of the curriculum, and once wrote that it was "cobbled together by sex activists – mostly gay or bisexual” and would turn classrooms into “brainwashing venues for the radicalization of children.”
"We were very much going to be equipping the kids … on how to deal with these issues, their legal rights and options," Simpson told CTV News Friday.
The theme of Get-A-Grip 2018 is "LGBT: Let God Be True,” and the poster features a burst of rainbow colours. But the same acronym is more commonly associated with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, which could have created some confusion over the conference’s agenda.
The poster also includes the logo for the Simon Fraser Student Society, which told CTV News it is not involved with the conference in any way.
"We want all of our most at-risk students to know that we stand with them, now and always," the SFSS said in a statement. "It is important for us to make it very clear to students that SFSS, in no way shape or form, endorse this event or the speakers."
It appears the logo made its way onto the poster through the Redeemed Christian Fellowship, a student club that's recognized by the Simon Fraser Student Society.
The club has promised to stop using the logo to promote the conference, according to the SFSS.
Simpson said the decision to push the event out of the Anvil Centre, which is run by the City of New Westminster, was an attack on free speech. She also suggested a "group of plotters" had put pressure on the venue to cancel.
"This is getting totally out of control, the lies, the misconceptions about what's transpiring. And at the end of the day, parents have a right to know what's going on in the public education system," Simpson said.
Simpson's issues with the inclusivity curriculum are numerous, and include a policy that instructs teachers to address students by the gender with which they identify – a right that's protected under B.C.'s Human Rights Code.
She has also spoken out against a policy allowing female-identifying transgender students to wear women's clothes to school.
“SOGI is a cult, and its adherents engage many of the established steps of a cult in recruitment of members,” she wrote in a November 2017 letter to Chilliwack school trustees.
The Anvil Centre told CTV News it decided to cancel the event's booking over concerns about the messaging that would be delivered to youths. Heidi Hughes, director of sales and marketing for the venue, said the city supports SOGI 123, and takes protections for the LGBTQ community seriously.
"It sort of came to light what the event was actually about, and it's clearly not in alignment with the City of New Westminster's mission," said Hughes.
The venue's licence agreement also allows it to cancel events that are "in the reasonable opinion of Anvil Centre immoral or improper or may cause public disorder in or near the premises," Hughes added.
Simpson said the organizers will be considering legal options, and will be urging Anvil Centre to reconsider its decision. If the venue refuses, organizers only have a few weeks to find a replacement for the event, which is scheduled for the July 21 weekend.