Vancouver Island MP James Lunney left the Conservative caucus Tuesday to sit as an independent. He voluntarily stepped aside, he said, so he could speak out and defend his “Christian world view,” which he feels is under attack.
He sat down with The Huffington Post Canada in his office this week to explain why he felt he couldn’t make his points within the Tory caucus and why he thinks believing in Jesus Christ is no longer acceptable in Canada.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you decide to leave the Conservative caucus this week?
A: I am very concerned about freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and academic freedoms that are all under unprecedented attack. For the first time, the college of physicians and surgeons in Ontario and Saskatchewan — and licensing boards are looking to follow in other provinces — are overruling long-standing conscience provisions for doctors who cannot perform certain procedures because their conscience would not allow them. That’s controversial things, like abortion and assisted suicide. The college has ruled that they need to perform these things or perhaps they shouldn’t be a family doctor. That is unprecedented. [The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and of Saskatchewan obliges doctors who cannot perform certain procedures to refer their patients to doctors who will.]
We have Trinity Western University, a Christian university, under unprecedented attack. Why are they being attacked by big corporate interests? Why is the Bank of Montreal leaning on the law society to discredit a faith-based institution? Why does the law society not want people of a Christian world view to practice in Canada?
And academic freedoms – the theory of macroevolution, from the slime to the human being, is no longer defensible. Any biologist today knows that, but they are not allowed to speak about it. I have a background in science. I have a zoology degree from the University of Manitoba. Some of the Twitter trolls want my university to tear up my degree. My chiropractic credentials have been trashed — people say we are not real doctors anyway. I was actually sued for using the title ‘Doctor,’ alleging that I had somehow misled people, but I was legally called Dr. Lunney in two provinces for 25 years, and I didn’t think I needed to change my branding. At that time, we had an MP south of me, Keith Martin in Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca, used the title all the time [he was a physician], Carolyn Bennett used the title at that era [the Liberal MP is also a physician]. Now I’m the only guy stuck with it today… I can’t take it off because it would imply that my critics were right. I was exonerated by the courts.
I am sensitive about having my credentials challenged and trashed by people on the Internet who know less about science than I do in most cases. I have been pounded with I’m a fraud, I’m a fake, I’m not a real scientist.
Q: So what does James Lunney believe in?
I would never say that I don’t believe in evolution. I didn’t say that, and I wouldn’t say that because most of what evolution takes to itself is natural process, better described as species variation and adaptation in my view. But it was another member in a legislature who said that, and now it’s attributed to me. The theory of macroevolution — from a simple molecule to a human being as a continuous chain of random events — is a theory in crisis. It’s not sustainable. People who understand molecular biology, and science, the nanotechnology that is going on inside your body in every cell – they can’t explain the first cell. Despite searching for years, we still can’t explain it. So it’s either E.T. did it or God did it.
In fact, children are insulted in the school system and bullied if they dare to suggest that what they learn in their Sunday school or what their parents speak when they speak a creed: ‘I believe in God the Father, God the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.’ If they dare speak what they speak in their church, they are bullied, in many cases by ignorant teachers, and their faith is challenged at a young age when they are not able to defend it. And that to me is a clear violation of freedom of religion. It is based on a false construct.
If they can’t explain a first cell…you are made of 80 to 100 trillion cells, 200 different cell types, they are different, there are worlds within worlds of activity going on in every cell, the technology in anyone of your cells at the nanotechnology level is superior to anything Apple has produced, superior to anything Bill Gates has produced. It is more sophisticated than the science that took those astronauts to the international space station. There are factories going on in every cell. It is all orchestrated.
Q: So what do you believe in? A literal definition of the Bible? How did life arrive on this Earth?
A: I believe God did it. I’m a Christian, just like most of the scientists who developed modern breakthroughs, Isaac Newton, Max Planck, Albert Einstein. Are all these men stupid because they believed in God? [Einstein appears to have believed in God as a superior being but not as a Christian as Lunney depicts.]
You know hidden in a the Bible is a verse that people didn’t really understand, but it’s: ‘With God a day is as a thousand years. And a thousand days is like a year.’
You want to talk about the theory of evolution, I’m saying it is stalled at the cell. You can’t explain where the first cell comes from. The great evolutionary enthusiasts think E.T. did it. I believe God is involved in making us. And it says in fact in the Book that we are the highest of his creations, and I actually believe that is true. Because the world, as we are starting to recognize through science what’s going on inside you, it eclipses anything going on in the universe.
I believe in God. I prefer to use the term intelligent design, because it doesn’t have to be pinned to your faith construct. I believe in God as the creator. I’m not prepared to talk about Adam and Eve. There are a lot of jokes about Adam and Eve. I think Adam and Eve were real people actually.
Q: Why did you feel you needed to leave the Conservative caucus to speak out for what you believed in? There are a number of practising Christians within the Tory caucus.
A: It’s only social conservatives that are being targeted by this smear campaign for what they believe. Can you imagine someone from another faith community being attacked this way? Would we do it to the Sikh community? I don’t know what their beliefs are, but would we expect that one of our members in the House, such as Tim Uppal, would have to defend his community’s faith or constructs? Would we do it to Alice Wong or for any members of the Chinese community. What is it the year of the rat, or the sheep and the goats? What is that all about? We don’t mock those things, we affirm them. Why is it only Christians that are allowed to be publicly belittled, demeaned, insulted?
Is it only Christians that are fair game for insults over their beliefs, and condemnation and denigration by rude and arrogant bigoted people. And what message does that send to the people who are fleeing to Canada, who are fleeing the Islamic State? What message does that send to the Coptic community in Canada who are mourning the loss of 21 of their brethren, who were slaughtered by ISIS, about the new country that adopted them when their beliefs are being trashed in the media and mocked and made fun of? Is that the tolerant Canada of the future?
Q: But did you feel you needed to step aside because your comments would reflect badly on your party?
A: You don’t need me to say that, the evidence is there. It’s what some see as ‘gotcha politics’ – you don’t believe in Darwin, you don’t believe in science.
You know what would happen. There would be people standing up and trying to pin this on the prime minister and my colleagues, trying to use it as a wedge issue. I am not prepared to do that. I paid a big price actually to take a seat as an independent for the remainder of my days. It will sever friendships and I’ll have the possibility of being greatly misunderstood.
However, I feel that it is important for my faith community that someone stand up and defend our rights, which are under unprecedented assault in the history of Canada.
Q: What do you mean unprecedented assault?
A: We’ve had conscience provisions for our doctors forever. Who are these people in the colleagues who want to take them away? Who are the people who want to deny those with a Christian world view a career in law? Why would that be a threat? We are not trying to impose something foreign. Canada was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
I am being pounded because people say I don’t believe in evolution. And you’ve seen some of these people pound on me on the Twitter line, I suspect.
Is the role of the media only to pound on social Conservatives and try to make us look as stupid as possible by linking everything that is controversial?
Q: What does it say to you if we, the media, are seemingly intolerant of views like yours?
A: Well, I guess that is a question for others to answer. Does militant atheism define Canada now? Because Christians are the most tolerant people in our society. We have accepted all types of slander against our beliefs and against the Lord that we worship. He is the greatest leader that ever walked the Earth and all of history is defined by his coming, and belief in Jesus Christ is no longer acceptable in Canada without slander and demeaning. And yet, because we are tolerant we have allowed this, but I’m saying it is to our shame.
Christians are being persecuted around the world. Seventy killed in Kenya by al-Shabab, a Christian university attacked Thursday. And you know who is speaking out for Christians? It’s our Jewish brothers and sisters who are crying out on behalf of Christians and drawing attention to the persecution of Christians.
It is a shame of the church in the West and in Canada in particular. We are too darned comfortable. We haven’t stood up for Christians who are persecuted around the world. And it’s coming right to our own doorstep here by intolerant people within Canada who are trying to cut Christians out of law, medicine and politics, and that is what these Twitter trolls are after on evolution who know nothing about a cell. I know something about that, so I think it gives me some responsibility to step into the controversy.
Q: Is it just Christian beliefs though? It seems that the decision by the Ontario college of physicians could be applied to most persons of faith?
A: OK. But freedom of religion is here to protect all faiths. That has to be overturned. Who are these 20 people who made this decision? Are they militant atheists as well? Who are they?
Q: Why do you care what people say about you on Twitter?
A: Well, actually I do think people care about their reputation. I’m leaving this place, I came here sincerely trying to make a difference for my community, trying to make a difference in health care, and I think a person has the right to leave this place with their dignity intact. And I’m not prepared – the trolls will be rewriting my Wikipedia comments now trying to define me for the rest of future, as an idiot and a stupid person who doesn’t believe in science – and, frankly, I have a right to defend what I believe.
Science can be wrong, and that's something that I wanted to put on the record in the House of Commons so that people would have something to go back to. And Wednesday that opportunity was denied to me.
I was shut down by the NDP. The Liberals spoke up for me, Elizabeth May asked that I have the time, all I wanted was another 10 minutes. A couple of my former colleagues asked that I have the time, there was order in the House and all we needed was consent, but the NDP apparently found that threatening and they stood by their right to deny consent.
Q: Why do you think there seems to be an intolerance for Christians to express their beliefs?
A: It’s targeted. I was on CBC this week and Ian Capstick said he was totally opposed to James Lunney, that I was a threat to his right to marry. As far as I know, he has the right to marry and he has been married according to his own admission for at least three years. But somehow I am a threat to his ability to marry and he is determine to take me down. He describes himself as a militant atheist. Why does this man feel threatened by James Lunney? I am not even running again.
The interesting thing is that it is about the truth. I think that if you cannot address in the House of Commons something that is as important to millions of Canadians as their rights to practice their own faith, their opportunity to participate in professional activity, as lawyers, as doctors, as contractors who might want to do business with the big banks, because their version of diversity metrics may not stand up, how does that actually square? Is it militant atheists that are going to define our rights? What I heard from Mr. Capstick was certainly not tolerance of any views but his own. There is a campaign to sever social conservatives from political life, and I think that’s what my own experience shows me.
That’s what Mr. Gordon Dirks’ experience shows me. He was not allowed to stand up and defend his belief, with his premier [Alberta’s Jim Prentice] at his side saying we are not going to change the curriculum. As if a pastor might be a threat to Canadian values. Ontario MPP Rick Nicholls can’t really defend his beliefs. I am not running again, so I stepped out of caucus voluntarily so that this controversy would not be appended to my colleagues. I am speaking as an independent and proud to do so.
Q: Did you tell the PM’s office what you wanted to do?
A: Yes. Of course, they would prefer that I not do this, because we have a highly competitive competition for seats on Vancouver Island. My own riding has been split in two, and we have candidates that are running there now, with an independent MP instead of an incumbent. So, yeah, I calculated the cost. And it’s going to be very costly. It’’s going to cause a lot of misunderstanding and, for the candidates running in that area … some very bitter disappointment, but I think that if a person cannot stand up and defend their faith community when their own faith is belittled, not just mine alone but millions of Canadians that is not a legacy that I want to leave behind, and sometimes you need to calculate the cost and do what you think is right.
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