Incumbent councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has raised eyebrows with some fiery comments about faith and politics, suggesting that voters should only cast a ballot for candidates who believe in God.

“End attack on Christians and other faiths! Voters should ask candidates whether they believe in a God and support those who DO,” Mammoliti wrote in a tweet Sunday night. “The lack of religious values in politics is why our children are killing each other. Religion and politics DO MIX. Let's drive the devil out of Toronto!”

It wasn’t clear what prompted the unusual comments, but they quickly drew a flood of response, including a tweet from British comedian Ricky Gervais.

“Exactly. People who believe in a god are never violent. That’s why there are no religious people in prison,” Gervais responded to Mammoliti on Twitter Monday.

Asked in an interview what prompted his comments, Mammoliti told CP24 that they were a response to “voices” in his community.

“It’s coming from the voices that I’m hearing in my community during this election. It’s coming from a place where you’re looking at really evil things that seem to be happening in some parts of the city” Mammoliti said. “It’s coming from the gun violence and the violence in our social housing units. It’s coming from the voices around the neighbourhood that are saying we got to do something about this really quick.”

He went on to say that he believes that people of faith make better decisions.

“I’m not trying to attack anybody. I’m just suggesting that anybody that is within a faith and believes in a faith would tend to make better choices and decisions in policy-making and I’m asking the electorate to consider that, just based on how society’s going right now.”

Asked about his comment that we need to “drive the devil out of Toronto,” Mammoliti said that he has peered into the souls of gang members.

“Anybody who hasn’t stared into the eyes of a gangbanger out there, somebody who’s ready to kill you with a gun – I’ve done that, I’ve stared into the eyes of those people for a long time. There’s something there – that soul is dead,” Mammoliti said. “I don’t care what criticism I get over this. They‘re lost.”

He said part of the problem with violence in the city is that there are “four or five generations of children who are growing up angry,” but didn’t elaborate.

He added that he knows his comments will anger many people.

“I know I’ve upset a lot of people, but it wouldn’t be the first time,” Mammoliti said.

Mammoliti currently represents Ward 7 - York West and is running for re-election within the expanded Ward 7 boundaries being imposed by the province.

Responding to Mammoliti, fellow incumbent and Ward 7 rival Anthony Perruzza said it’s not the business of council candidates to start having religious discussions with voters.

“When I go to people’s doors, what they want to talk to me about is their community, their neighbourhood, their street, what’s going on on their street. There’s very few people that ask me what my religious affiliation may be or what church I go to,” Perruzza said. “I certainly never ask people because that’s not something I should be asking. What I should be doing is I should be taking care of people’s needs, making sure they have access to services. That’s the job of a councillor.

He said Mammoliti’s provocative comments about religion are just a way of getting attention.

“His turning the conversation to religion really is a way for him to get on television and he spends an awful lot of time doing that,”Perruzza said. “If he spent that time actually doing the work of a councillor in his neighbourhood, far fewer people would actually be upset with him.”

Tiffany Ford, another Ward 7 candidate, said that a councillor needs to represent all members in a ward, including those who may not belong to a faith group.

“If he has truly found God, I hope his actions and behaviour moving forward reflects that,” Ford said. “He also needs to understand that he has to represent all of his constituents regardless of what their values and beliefs are.”