Reaction was immediate and negative to news that several Liberal MLAs have used taxpayers money to run ads in a B.C. Christian magazine that has run stories opposed to transgender rights, to medical assistance in dying, and spoken out against banning so-called “conversion therapy.”
Shortly after the story broke on Tuesday that a number of Liberal MLAs, including party leader Andrew Wilkinson had bought ads in the Langley-based “The Light Magazine,” Wilkinson issued a statement on Twitter promising to take action.
There is no room in the BC Liberal Party for homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of discrimination.
Going forward, we are taking immediate steps to ensure our advertising decisions reflect those values at all times.
— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) June 30, 2020
”There is no room in the BC Liberal Party for homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of discrimination,” Wilkinson said.
“Going forward, we are taking immediate steps to ensure our advertising decisions reflect those values at all times.”
Coleman said the idea of buying a group ad in the magazine had come from the Liberal caucus, and he expected that process would be adjusted in future.
That said, the veteran MLA added buying a seasonal “good wishes” message does not represent his endorsement of the positions taken by the publication, any more than the ads he runs in local newspapers do.
“Sometimes, I don’t like your editorial content, but I still buy ads,” Coleman commented.
He went on to say that The Light was a way of reaching out to the Christian community, no different than reaching other religions through other publications.
Black Press Media has reached out to MLA Polak, as well as The Light Magazine. But prior to deadline, there was no response.
It was “very disturbing” but not a great surprise, to Art Pearson, the public outreach coordinator for the Hominum Fraser Valley support group – which holds monthly meetings in the Langley area for gay, bi-sexual, and questioning men.
“There are going to be some people who never change [their views],” Pearson told the Langley Advance Times.
Pearson, who described himself as a religious person and member of the United Church, said he supports an inclusive, tolerant version of Christianity.
He suspects the ads were purchased without full knowledge of the magazine’s contents.
“Somebody in the Liberal Party should have done their homework,” Pearson commented. “They were sloppy.”
He suggested the party could best make amends by spending ad dollars to amplify the message of Wikinson’s lone Tweet.
For Langley inclusion activist Stacey Wakelin, the most “unfortunate” part of this story is the fact that the MLAs reportedly used their constituency office allowance designated for communications with their constituents.
“It’s the fact that it’s taxpayers money is what really frustrates me,” Wakelin said.
She thinks it is possible that the ads ran in error, but Wakelin thinks it is just as likely that the MLA were playing to their core support.
“You’re looking at career politicians who cater to their base,” Wakelin said. “I hope they will use this as a learning experience.”
A March 2020 article in The Light, which describes itself as “a free monthly Christian lifestyle magazine,” disputed claims about the harm done by conversion therapy.
“Contemporary [conversion] therapists are more likely to rely on talk, visualization, prayer, social skills training, psychoanalytic or group therapy,” the article stated.
It warned banning conversion therapy “could actually have far-reaching impact on pastoral care and support groups,” predicting “the shore of religious freedom is indeed being eroded again.”
Endorsing conversion therapy was especially offensive to Wakelin, because she personally knows people whose “lives were ruined” by attempts to forcibly change their sexual orientation.
“It’s 2020,” Wakelin went on to say. “Why do we keep having these conversations?”
Wakelin, who has opposed what she believes to be anti-gay activism in the community, is currently on the board of the Triple A Senior Housing and Langley Pos-Abilties societies, while additionally organizing On the Table – a community dinner held for citizens to break bread and meet each other.
Other Liberal MLAs seen in a 2019 ”Happy Thanksgiving from the B.C. Liberal Caucus” ad that ran in the magazine were; Langley MLA Mary Polak, Langley East MLA Rich Coleman, Surrey – Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt, Kamloops – South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (which also serves a northeast section of Langley) , Vancouver – Langara MLA Michael Lee, Vancouver – False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, Abbotsford – Mission MLA Simon Gibson, and Chilliwack – Kent MLA Laurie Throness.