James Lunney defends views on evolution in House of Commons
'It's not freedom of religion if your views are put down by your peers.'
One day after he announced he was leaving the Conservative caucus to better defend his religious beliefs, Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney attempted to do just that from his new seat in the corner of the House of Commons reserved for independent MPs.
But despite his best efforts, he was unable to convince House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer that the "cyberbullying" and "crowd-shaming" that he claimed to have experienced after questioning the science behind evolution constituted a breach of his parliamentary privilege.
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Several colleagues on both the government and opposition sides of the House supported his question of privilege.
The Speaker allowed Lunney just over 10 minutes to deliver a a wide-ranging speech on religious freedom, the history of chiropractic therapy and the "false construct" of evolution, but Scheer eventually shut down the newly independent MP on procedural grounds after Lunney failed to garner the necessary unanimous consent to continue.
On Wednesday, Lunney revealed he had decided to leave the Conservative caucus in order to defend his religious beliefs against what he described as "deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian world-view from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine, and academia."
In a written statement, he pointed to the "firestorm of criticism and condemnation" triggered by media coverage after he came to the defence of an Ontario Tory MPP who caused an uproar at Queen's Park when he told reporters he doesn't believe in evolution.
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"My remarks were inflated by media, blended with other unrelated but alleged heretical statements and became a top story on national media," the chiropractor-turned-MP noted.
Speaking to CBC News Power & Politics host Evan Solomon on Wednesday evening, Lunney said that he was tired of seeing his faith community bullied.
"There are concerns about the law grads trying to be shut down ... concerns about conscience provisions in medicine ... academia is gagged on this false construct related to evolution," he explained.
"I got dragged into it with a few short words."
He noted that, as he is in his last term, he has other things to be concerned about.
Evolution a 'theory in crisis': Lunney
"But since it's become an issue, it's perhaps an opportunity to address an issue that people really do want to talk about."
Lunney described evolution — or, as he calls it, "macro-evolution" is "a theory in crisis."
"Scientists are not able to speak their mind on that — at least half of them who feel this way, they're gagged by an old construct," he argued.
"There's a whole generation of kids being taught that what they're taught in Sunday School or in church is garbage, it's wrong, it's false, and it's simply a form of bullying that's no longer acceptable. It's not scientifically tenable, it's a disservice to science… it's not freedom of religion if your views are put down by your peers."
Lunney's defence of religious freedom does not extend to supporting the right of Muslim women to wear the niqab when being sworn in as citizens, however.
After initially avoiding the question, he eventually confirmed that he shares the views of his former party and the prime minister that those seeking to become Canadian citizens should show their faces.
"I'm not going to get tangled up in that argument," he said.
"That's not what I'm here to talk about."
Christian group lauds 'move for freedom'
Lunney's decision to leave caucus was heralded by MY Canada, a faith-based advocacy group.
In an email headlined "Christian MP makes move for freedom," the group called on the Canadian Christian community to support his "principled decision."
"Please keep Dr. Lunney, his family and staff in prayer at this important time where they will undoubtedly receive some persecution for their stance," the email advised.
It also suggests that supporters send email to not only Lunney, but also Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "to let him know that you fully support Dr. Lunney's decision and that you hope that he will work to ensure Canada remains a nation where Christians' rights are protected in the same way other religions' and people groups' are."
Lunney, who was first elected as a Canadian Alliance member in 2000, had previously announced that he did not intend to seek re-election in 2015.
Until then, he says he will "continue to vote alongside my colleagues in the Conservative caucus."
Asked for comment on Tuesday by CBC News, Harper's office offered a terse reply.
"This member voluntarily removed himself from caucus," Stephen Lecce told CBC News in an email.
"This member was not seeking re-election."