A veteran Conservative MP is leaving the government caucus in order to defend his religious beliefs against what he describes as "deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian world-view from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine, and academia."
In a statement released Tuesday, James Lunney announced that he is withdrawing from the Conservative caucus voluntarily so as not to "entangle the most multiracial, multicultural and multi-faith caucus in parliamentary history" in his decision to defend his beliefs.
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Earlier this month, Lunney came to the defence of an Ontario Tory MPP who caused a stir at Queen's Park when he told reporters he doesn't believe in evolution.
"Just stop calling evolution fact," Lunney tweeted.
In his statement Tuesday, Lunney said his comments "were inflated by media, blended with other unrelated but alleged heretical statements and became a top story on national media creating a firestorm of criticism and condemnation."
"Since two other politicians in Ontario and Alberta were targeted during the same period, it is clear that any politician or candidate of faith is going to be subjected to the same public scrutiny in coming elections," he added.
He says he will continue to vote with his former caucus colleagues. In 2013, Lunney announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office had little to add beyond what Lunney stated in his release.
"This member voluntarily removed himself from caucus," Stephen Lecce told CBC News in an email. "This member was not seeking re-election."
The full text of Lunney's statement:
Leaders of the faith community were in Ottawa on March 25th to express their alarm at increasing and unprecedented attempts to stifle freedom of religion, conscience and expression in Canada.
They identify deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian world-view from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine, and academia. I share these concerns. I believe the same is true in the realm of politics at senior levels.
In the past month a few words exchanged on social media, words like: science, managing assumptions and theory or fact related to (macro) evolution. My remarks were inflated by media, blended with other unrelated but alleged heretical statements and became a top story on national media creating a firestorm of criticism and condemnation. Since two other politicians in Ontario and Alberta were targeted during the same period, it is clear that any politician or candidate of faith is going to be subjected to the same public scrutiny in coming elections.
In a society normally proud of embracing difference, the role of the media and partisan politics in inciting social bigotry and intolerance should be questioned. Such ignorance and bigotry cloaked in defence of science is as repugnant as bigotry of any other origin. It is based in a false construct from another century and is a flagrant violation of a society that is multicultural, multi-racial and multi faith and strives to be accepting of differences.
Today I am announcing that I have asked the speaker to assign me a seat as an independent MP. I will seek an opportunity to address the House in defence of my beliefs and the concerns of my faith community.
I am withdrawing from the CPC caucus voluntarily; the decision is entirely my own. Given the circling trolls, I do not intend to entangle the most multi-racial, multicultural and multi-faith caucus in parliamentary history in my decision to defend my beliefs.
I have no intentions of betraying my promise to my constituents and will continue to vote alongside my colleagues in the Conservative caucus.
Freedom of Religion is foundational to democracy; if we don't get that right, it always leads to persecution.