B.C. MP James Lunney is leaving the Conservative caucus after 15 years to sit as an Independent in order to more freely express his views related to his Christian faith.

Lunney, who represents the riding of Nanaimo-Alberni, announced the news Tuesday in a statement, saying he was leaving voluntarily so that his Conservative colleagues would not become "entangled" in the controversy surrounding his views on evolution.

He said he will continue to vote with the Conservatives.

"Today I am announcing that I have asked the speaker to assign me a seat as an independent MP," he said in the statement. "I will seek an opportunity to address the House in defence of my beliefs and the concerns of my faith community."

Lunney, 63, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2000, and has since won re-election four times.

The long-time MP came under fire on social media last month for comments he made suggesting that evolution is a theory, not necessarily a fact, CTV's Don Martin reported from Ottawa.

In his statement, Lunney cited the attacks as a reason he was leaving the caucus.

"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," Lunney said.

A spokesperson from the PMO confirmed in a statement that Lunney voluntarily removed himself from the Conservative caucus, and will not seek re-election in 2015.