A Scottish member of Parliament (MP) facing deselection for her vote against abortion in Northern Ireland told Church Militant in an exclusive interview that she has been reselected for the forthcoming general election.
Dr. Lisa Cameron described the overwhelming support she had received from the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, especially from its president Bishop Hugh Gilbert, who wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking for assurance that it was not “incompatible to hold pro-life views and be a SNP MP or candidate.”
The clinical psychologist and devout Christian, who represents East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, was one of just two Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs to vote against lifting Northern Ireland’s abortion ban in Britain’s House of Commons in July.
She was deluged with thousands of comments abusing her and even death threats after her vote despite explaining that she had two miscarriages and knew the pain of losing a child.
Until Saturday, she was the SNP’s only sitting member of the Westminster Parliament not to have been approved as a candidate for the forthcoming general election.
“I would say there is a very toxic atmosphere for Christians in parliament across all parties.”
Dr. Cameron said that Catholic councillor for Inverclyde Council Christopher McEleny had “similar protracted problems with vetting as myself.”
“It is getting increasingly difficult for Catholic’s today in elected office. However, just because it’s difficult shouldn’t mean that we make our beliefs contemporary in fear that we will lose votes if we don’t,” McEleny told Church Militant.
“As a Catholic in politics I don’t demand that the entire world lives by my faith-based values, but it seems there’s increasingly a perverted view of liberalism that’s creeping into all political parties that says: ‘here is my liberal view point, embrace it and adhere to it, and if you don’t we will attack you, we will smear you and we will work to ensure there’s no place for you in politics,’” McEleny said.
McEleny said he faced hostility after he shared pro-life material on social media. “When I was vetted I was asked if I thought it would be prudent to curtail sharing or commenting on aspects of my faith such as this,” he revealed.
The following is Church Militant’s full interview with Dr. Cameron.
Church Militant: Can you describe how your political career was imperilled after you took a stand on pro-life issues in Northern Ireland?
Lisa Cameron: After my vote against abortion the local activists and officials who vet and select candidates said I wasn’t suitable to be an MP for the party because of my views. There were two calls to stand down from my position from local officials. One of them was a convenor who chairs the local branches and the other works at the party headquarters and is on the de-selection panel and vetting panel.
CM: Are you the only pro-life MP in your party?
LC: I don’t believe so. I think there is another individual Peter Grant who voted this way but his local officials did not object to his vote. Mine did and stated that because of my vote I should not be an MP anymore and should stand down.
CM: Was there opposition from the public?
LC: I had over 1,200 messages of abuse within 48 hours. I had to contact parliamentary security because a number of messages were high level abuse, verbal abuse, vile pictures of aborted foetuses, and rape scenes saying I supported rapists, when I actually worked in psychology for years supporting survivors of trauma.
There were even threats saying I should be aborted, so a lot of jumping to conclusions about my beliefs because I am a Christian and a lot of discrimination out there. Many of the individuals were identifiably party members, which is very distressing for me.
CM: The SNP is very liberal, how do you cope?
LC: The founding principle of the SNP is about Scottish independence. Usually, it is quote a broad church. But for the past few years it has become much more secular. The First Minister, for instance, tweeting on the day of the abortion vote said if she were at Westminster she would vote for the human right of women in Northern Ireland.
An unborn child also has human rights. So the leadership does not have the same position as me on these issues and I am just pleased I stood up for my beliefs, even if it is going to cost me my job because I don’t see the point of not being true to yourself and retaining your integrity.
CM: How did this affect your personally?
LC: I experienced two miscarriages and they were very traumatic. I lost babies and so this also formed my experience and my thoughts in relation to my conscience vote. But people will say it does not matter if she’s had miscarriages. In fact, it was so abusive that the bishops ended up getting involved and writing to the First Minister.
CM: Who were the bishops who supported you?
LC: The main one was Bishop [John] Keenan, the bishop of Paisley. The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland wrote collectively to the First Minister asking if she would support me and asking her to ensure that MPs who have pro-life views are not abused and replaced in politics. I think the bishops were quite astonished by the level of hostility and this triggered them to write, because this abuse undermines democracy—it means certain views can’t be represented in parliament.
CM: Did you receive support from the Church of Scotland or the Episcopal Church?
LC: So many Christians contacted me. The Free Church of Scotland invited me over and they prayed for me. I know they were also writing to the First Minister. But I think the main support was from the Roman Catholic Church. I did not have similar support from the hierarchy of the Church of Scotland or the Episcopal Church.
CM: We have 26 bishops who sit in the House of Lords including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. None of them were present in parliament for the vote on abortion. What is your response?
LC: I’m not sure what the position of the Church of England is on abortion to be honest. I know we have a very good Christian group in parliament at Westminster and they have been very supportive. It is very surprising—you would think that this would be one of the issues the Church of England bishops would wish to take part in debating!
CM: How do you plan to be more political in your fight for the unborn as you go ahead, now that you’ve been selected?
LC: I have taken great strength from this. I would say there is a very toxic atmosphere for Christians in parliament and in politics in general across all parties. But what I have taken from this is I am so pleased that I stood for my beliefs.
I tried to give voice to the voiceless, the most vulnerable, the unborn and from this I really gathered strength. So many people from across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been praying for me, have written to me and thanked me and feel their voices are often ignored in our parliament and in our democracy and I really want to go on and continue to represent them.
I was very disheartened at the start when I was receiving all this abuse but after seeing so many supporting letters, emails, people, I knew I am not alone and I know I have done right. I think when you are in politics you should stand up and be counted.
Over the last week, I went to 10 Downing Street with a petition and petitioners from Northern Ireland. There were thousands and thousands of names on the petition. I will continue to stand up for my beliefs in parliament and to advocate for the unborn.
I have some good news. I have been shortlisted for the MP of the year. I chaired the disability group in parliament for four years—I speak up for the most vulnerable and now this have shortlisted me for this honour. I will find out on Thursday if I’ve won or not.
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)