12/15/2014 06:08 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

Former director of religious lobby group will run for Manitoba Tories

WINNIPEG - A former board member with a religious lobby group that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion is running for the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives in the next provincial election.

James Teitsma (TEYET'-smah) says he wants to represent all residents in his constituency and will not push the agenda of his former group.

Teitsma was acclaimed in September as the Tory candidate in the Radisson constituency in east Winnipeg.

Before that, he was a director with the Association for Reformed Political Action, or ARPA, a national group aiming to bring a Christian biblical perspective to politics.

The group has protested abortion, fought against same-sex marriage and lobbied against a provincial law that requires schools to allow support groups for gay students.

Teitsma says he is not running for election so he can represent ARPA, and will work within the Tory caucus if elected.

"I'm going to take my own beliefs and viewpoints, and more importantly I'm going to be listening to Manitobans. So if I hear at the door, when I'm door-knocking through the riding, if I hear something that happens to coincide with an ARPA position, obviously then I'm going to take that," he said Monday.

"But I recognize that ARPA Canada's viewpoints are representative of only a subset of Canadians and I need to listen to everyone."

ARPA was most recently in the news for planting 100,000 small flags on the lawn of Parliament Hill to call for restrictions on abortion.

Last year, the group organized a letter-writing campaign against a bill that proposed that Manitoba schools must accommodate students wanting to establish gay-straight alliances. The group said the bill, which has since become law, was unfair to religious schools that do not condone homosexuality.

The group also offers written lesson plans for home-schooled students and others on issues such as same-sex marriage.

"The family is to reflect who God is to this world," reads one lesson plan.

"It is not to be defined according to our changing preferences but according to God's eternal standard."

ARPA Canada's mission statement is to "educate, equip and encourage Reformed Christians to political action and to bring a biblical perspective to our civil authorities," according to its website.

Teitsma said he believes religion should not be excluded from politics, but realizes his view is one of many.

"My idea is that, as a politician, I would take it very seriously that I represent the interests of all Manitobans, all of my constituents, who hold a variety of different viewpoints."

Still, he said, he continues to have concerns with the gay-straight alliance bill, but changing it is not a priority "at this time."

Tory spokesman Mike Brown said Teitsma was vetted, as are all candidates, before he secured the Radisson nomination and the party has no concerns.

"We get people from all walks of life and all backgrounds, and we want that," Brown said.

"When we present policy, it'll be based on discussions with all of the caucus members and those will be brought forward from all parts of Manitoba. Will (Teitsma) have a say? Sure. Will his voice be heard above all of caucus? Of course not."

The first task for Teitsma is taking the Radisson seat from the New Democrats, who have held the constituency since 2003. The Tories are looking to make inroads in Winnipeg, where NDP support has dropped sharply after last year's increase in the provincial sales tax.

The next election is slated for April 2016.