Canadians have long had a jaundiced view of politicians but recent maneuvering on Parliament Hill have been particularly ugly. Paul Martin’s shameless use of political carrots and sticks show that is his desire to hold power trumps all. Thank goodness there are still some MPs who have the courage of their conscience – MPs like Pat O’Brien. On June 6, O’Brien left the Liberal party, but his party had left him long before that.

Like most Canadians, he opposes same-sex “marriage” and, like most Canadians, he was shocked by Paul Martin’s disrespect for the democratic process in this matter. He had considered leaving the Liberal party before and stayed only after Martin pledged to hold fair committee hearings. When it was clear that Martin had no intention of keeping this promise, O’Brien felt he had no choice but to leave. O’Brien reminds us that there are still Liberals who do not share the radical Martin agenda on marriage and they deserve our encouragement and need our support.

On July 6, 1535 Sir Thomas More was beheaded because of his refusal to accept the King’s changes to the definition of marriage. The King would not tolerate any dissent and More paid for it with his life. This 16th century tragedy is being played out on Parliament Hill today – but this time as a farce. To stay in power, Martin’s government has broken promises, age-old parliamentary customs, and quite possibly Canadian law. Now his government is trying to make a radical change to society’s most sacred institution – a change which most Canadians oppose.

O’Brien has set a noble example for his fellow MPs. Like O’Brien, they ought to participate as full members in their party as far as their conscience permits them but, like O’Brien, they must go no further. O’Brien’s courageous actions have reminded his colleagues and all Canadians that MPs are answerable to a higher power than the voters at the polls.

Sir Thomas More once said: “I believe, when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties…they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” When a politician votes for the wishes of his constituents or the wishes of his party instead of what is right, the results can be disastrous. By following his conscience, Pat O’Brien has truly done his civic duty and has proven himself a citizen and patriot. O’Brien, like More, has shown us the correct order of a public servant’s obligations: in the words of More just before he was killed, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”