Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough adds conservative activist Terry Kemple to diversity council

Terry Kemple is running for School Board in District 4, which includes the Brandon and Valrico area.

Terry Kemple is running for School Board in District 4, which includes the Brandon and Valrico area.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County finalized its Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday, giving socially conservative activist and School Board candidate Terry Kemple a spot on the panel after all.

The unanimous vote capped months of controversy and discussion about whether Kemple's inclusion would undermine the council's goal of making the county more welcoming to all.

Kemple's appointment came after Commissioners Kevin Beckner and Les Miller stated their concerns about his inclusion. Beckner, who is gay, said previously that he would go along in the interest of having the committee get to work.

On Wednesday, Beckner referred to Pope Francis while making the point that everyone in the community deserves respect and freedom from discrimination.

"When he was asked how he felt about homosexuality, he said, 'Who am I to judge?' " Beckner said of the pope's recent statements. "And his response stuck with me."

Beckner said that, while he is not Catholic, he would take the same approach in considering Kemple's application to serve on the committee representing people of northern and southern European descent.

Miller made it clear he wasn't keen on Kemple's appointment, adding that he doesn't like those who foment trouble or discrimination in the community. He warned that any attempt by Kemple to use the position as a platform to promote discrimination or bigotry will have consequences.

"If you come across as you have in the past, I will do everything in my power to dissolve this committee or remove you," Miller said.

Kemple, a Valrico resident, opposes gay equality measures and has repeatedly sparred with Beckner. In 2012, he led a protest against school appearances by speakers connected to the Council for American-Islamic Relations, which he accused of having terrorist ties. The organization denied the allegation and called Kemple anti-Muslim.

In emails to supporters of his Christian advocacy group, the Community Issues Council, Kemple has said the diversity council is part of Beckner's campaign to "forward the homosexual agenda."

Kemple is seeking the School Board seat in District 4, which includes the Brandon and Valrico area, in 2014.

Commissioners actually took the step of voting separately to approve the ethnic category Kemple would represent to ensure the panel was created with or without his participation. As it turns out, both votes were unanimous.

"I'm glad I'm on it," Kemple said. "I represent a large constituency in this community who deserve to have a member on that panel who isn't afraid to speak with clarity and courtesy, to express their position on things that come before the board."

Hillsborough adds conservative activist Terry Kemple to diversity council 10/02/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 12:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  2. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement
  3. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulffront hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests at the Don CeSar Hotel relax Tuesday on St. Pete Beach. That night, the City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance to allow hotel guests to drink alcohol in permitted beach areas.
  4. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  5. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    From left, Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact executive director, introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, PolitiFact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair; and Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times editor and vice president, at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.