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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alberta Tory Ric McIver rebuked for marching in parade run by anti-gay church

EDMONTON - Alberta leadership candidate Ric McIver had his knuckles rapped Monday by the PC party for marching in a weekend parade organized by a church that believes gay people are the minions of Satan.

"Closed mindedness or intolerance have no place in the PCAA," Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta president Jim McCormick said in a written statement.

"Individual members are expected to follow our statement of principles, which includes that of being an open party that's accessible to all Albertans.

"Tolerance and acceptance in this province is vital for us to continue to be a strong and vibrant society."

The comments were in response to McIver taking part in a weekend March for Jesus event in Calgary put on by an organization known as Street Church.

The Street Church, on its website, condemns homosexuals, including those who took part in a parade last year.

"Last year alone, Calgary's streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade of over 30,000 attendees," said the website.

"None of them were embarrassed the slightest to publicly even present their nakedness in front of families, and in front of future generations to openly proclaim and manifest that they are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan)."

McIver was not available for an interview Monday, but issued a statement on his Facebook page, saying that he was made aware of the web page after the march was over.

He said he was there to celebrate his Roman Catholic faith.

"I have attended the opening of this event for the last four years," he wrote.

"For years, I have also attended events with other faith communities, including Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and secular events with many diverse communities from around the world.

"As an Albertan and if chosen premier, I do and will continue to defend equality rights for all Albertans as defined in the charter, including sexual orientation.

"I deplore discrimination against all groups and individuals without exception."

McIver is one of three candidates in the leadership race, with voting to take place in September.

The winner becomes party leader and premier.

Candidate Thomas Lukaszuk told reporters there's no place in the leadership debate for intolerance.

"I won't comment on (McIver's) choices," said Lukaszuk. "I can tell you that I always make sure that whatever organization I engage myself with I thoroughly read their literature, their background and what it is they really stand for."

Reporters asked Lukaszuk if this was McIver's "lake of fire" moment?

"Perhaps a puddle of sorts," he replied.

Lake of fire refers to anti-gay comments attributed to a Wildrose candidate during the 2012 election campaign. Allan Hunsperger warned gays to abandon their homosexuality or face eternity suffering in hell's "lake of fire."

When the party refused to cut Hunsperger loose, "lake of fire" became a popular catch phrase for Wildrose intolerance. The party has since reiterated it espouses equality for all.

A spokesman for Tory leadership candidate Jim Prentice said Prentice has always been clear on the subject.

"As a federal member of Parliament he stood up in the House of Commons and voted for marriage equality," said Bill Anderson.

"Mr. Prentice stands firmly against any form of intolerance, and his record shows that over a lifetime."

Kris Wells, who has become an unofficial spokesman for the gay community, said McIver needs to quit the race.

Wells said the decision to join the march raises questions not only about McIver's true beliefs, but also about his soundness of judgement to lead all Albertans as premier.

"This is damage that can't be repaired," said Wells, with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.

"The last thing Alberta needs is a lake of fire premier, and I think voters clearly repudiated that ideology in the last election."

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