Howard against bar on Catholic monarch
Michael Howard, the Tory leader, is backing the abolition of the centuries old ban on the monarch becoming or marrying a Roman Catholic.
He described the present position as an anachronism and promised to consider reforms if he became prime minister. In an interview in the Catholic Herald, the Roman Catholic weekly newspaper, Mr Howard said he opposed discrimination against any religious group.
"There is no prohibition on the monarch or the monarch's consort being members of any other religion," he said. "So pandora charms kids I think it is an anachronism that Catholicism should be singled pandora jewelry bracelet out."
His intervention will reinforce demands by prominent Catholics for the repeal of what they regard as bigoted laws.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, is leading the fight and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, his counterpart in England and Wales, is sympathetic.
Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough and a Catholic, was the latest to attempt to amend the 300 year old legislation passed at the time of the Glorious Revolution.
He introduced a 10 minute rule Bill last month to remove the clauses preventing heirs to the throne marrying "papists". He argued that it was "intolerable today for the constitution pandora usa to pick out any minority on grounds of religion".
Like other attempts at reform, however, Mr Leigh's Bill foundered because the Government has no intention of allowing parliamentary time.
The Bill of Rights of 1689 states that anybody who "shall profess the Popish religion, or shall marry a Papist, shall be excluded and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the Crown".
That ban was reinforced in the 1701 Act of Settlement, which insisted that the monarch must "join in communion" with the Church of England.
Parliament passed the Act to secure the Protestant succession to the throne at a time when English Catholics were regarded with deep suspicion and their loyalty was doubted.
Elizabeth I had survived a succession of plots and James I thwarted the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In 1688, in the Glorious Revolution, James II, a convert to Roman Catholicism, was forced out in favour of the Dutch Protestant, William of Orange. But fears remained that a Catholic could regain the throne.
Although there is now a broad cross party consensus that times have changed and that much of the legislation is unfair, a number of obstacles remains to the repeal of the law.
The monarch swears to defend "the faith" during the coronation and, as supreme governor of the Church of England, is required to be an Anglican communicant.
Some observers believe, however, that if Prince William were to meet a Roman Catholic woman create your own pandora bracelet he wished to marry, the law could be changed because there would be a sense of urgency.
But even the limited reform of allowing the monarch to marry a Catholic is controversial because the Catholic Church expects that the children of a mixed marriage will be brought up in that faith.
Protestant traditionalists say this could result in the heir to the throne being a Catholic and therefore unable to become supreme governor. Such an eventuality would bring about the separation of Church and state, they say.
However, the Roman Catholic Church has relaxed its rules in this area: a Catholic can now be granted a dispensation to enter a mixed marriage in which the children will not be brought up as Catholics if there are mitigating circumstances.
Another factor is that not all the bishops of the Church of England would oppose a Catholic king or queen becoming their supreme governor.
The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Peter Selby, said in a recent debate in the House of Lords: "There is no reason why a Roman Catholic, advised by ministers, who can be of any religious persuasion, or none, could not be the supreme governor of the Church of England.
"There is no truth in the contention that a change of this kind will unravel the constitution."
Even if the sensitivities of the established Church could be overcome, however, a constitutional minefield lies in wait. The Treaty of Union that created the United Kingdom also excludes from the British throne Catholics or those married to them.
Moreover, the repeal of the Act of Settlement would almost certainly require every country in the Commonwealth to alter its laws, a potentially fraught and lengthy process which could open a Pandora's Box of latent republicanism.
In his interview, Mr Howard was reluctant to give any commitment to allow time for a Bill reforming the Act and acknowledged the potential pitfalls of trying to change the law.
"Amending it is quite a complicated business, because you have to consult the governments of many Commonwealth countries as well," he said.
"It is something I would certainly consider, and think about, but it is not necessarily something you can make glib promises about because of the complications which exist.".
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