Veteran Conservative MP James Lunney, who has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the theory of evolution, is quitting the Tory caucus, citing a deliberate attempt to "suppress a Christian worldview" at the "senior levels" of politics.
In a statement explaining his decision to sit as an independent, Mr. Lunney said he wants to place some distance between himself and the Harper government so he can "defend my beliefs" without it reflecting back on the Conservative caucus, which he made a point of framing as diverse.
"I am withdrawing from the [Conservative Party of Canada] caucus voluntarily; the decision is entirely my own ... 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."
Mr. Lunney, who first won a seat in the Commons in 2000, announced more than a year ago that he would not run in the 2015 election.
He suggested in his statement that he will now feel more free as an independent member of Parliament to air more of his opinions in in the Commons.
"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."
The Prime Minister's Office had little to say. "The member voluntarily removed himself from caucus. The member was not seeking re-election," a spokesman said.
Mr. Lunney expressed common cause in this statement with a group of faith leaders who spoke out in Ottawa last week against what they say is increasing discrimination and intolerance against Christians in Canada today, including from the government and private companies.
He said like these religious leaders he sees an effort to "suppress a Christian world view from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine and academia."
The B.C. MP, a chiropractor by training, recently came to the defence of Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls who said he doesn't believe in evolution.
"[Just] stop calling #evolution fact!" Mr. Lunney said on Twitter in late February.
In April 2009, Mr. Lunney made a statement in the Commons that suggested he had doubts about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
"Given the modern evidence unavailable to Darwin, advanced models of plate tectonics, polonium radiohalos, polystratic fossils, I am prepared to believe that Darwin would be willing to re-examine his assumptions," Mr. Lunney told the House in 2009.
He appeared to suggest that creationist theories should be taken seriously.
"The evolutionists may genuinely see his ancestor in a monkey, but many modern scientists interpret the same evidence in favour of creation and a creator," Mr. Lunney said back in 2009.
"Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis."
In his Tuesday statement, Mr. Lunney appeared angry at how his defence of Mr. Nicholls was covered by the media.
"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 ... 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."