THE PROPOSED but quashed Act of Settlement amendment debate was not a mare end of term folly, prompted by a frivolous delight in speculating about Prince Charles' merriege plans. It raised e serious constitutional question which deserves to be fully debated in the next session of Parliament.
In Britain, we are used to taking a pride In our traditions, but the anti-Catholic strictures of the 1701 Act of Settlement scarcely merit preservation. It has already been proved that the Act itself is not sacrosanct: — when George V was not happy with the harsh wording of the coronation pledge, Parliament changed the formula accordingly.
We should be thankful that in the eyes of the vast majority of people In this country, the constitutional objections barring the hair to the throne from marrying a Catholic seem both obsolete and slightly ridiculous. Prince Charles is in the bizarre position of being able to marry a Moonie, a Mormon, a Reformed Christian, and Orthodox Christian, a nonChristian or an athiest, but not a Christian who belongs to the Catholic Church.
This must be 'a source of embarrassment for all those working towards Christian unity here. The legislation as It stands casts a slur on the Catholic community of Britain. It is worth noting that the defunct amendment debate was not sponsored by a Catholic lobby. But although the Bill wee not the product of Catholic agitation, its almost certain defeat would have been painfully offensive, not only to Catholic voters, but also to all those who find religious discrimination unacceptable.
It is remarkable that politicians can still be found who are willing to defend such a sad anachronism. The suggestion that Westminster should not touch the Bill for fear of upsetting the sectarian prejudices of Northern Ireland is evidence of a chilling philosophy of expediency and cowardice. Those prejudices should be upset.
We must make it clear to our politicians that their electorate looks to them to etand up against Intolerance and religious discrimination, not to be intimidated by ft. Thls debate will come up in the next parliamentary session. Now is the time to write to our MPs and ensure they are In no doubt that this joyless relic of ancient bigotry must go.