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Repeal 1701 Act of Settlement that explicitly discriminates against Roman Catholics

Comment 7th July 2010

Given the on-going debate in parliament – some of it ushered in via private members bills and the alike – of repealing discriminatory clauses extant in the 1701 Act of Settlement against Roman Catholics, it would be opportune to tackle this issue head-on and secure bi-partisan support for its repeal. In the context of civil liberties and the Human Rights Act, it is counter-progressive to allow such an archaic and discriminatory provision to remain on the statute books. Furthermore, past inertia on the issue needs to be changed and swift action taken to repeal a provision that is of concern for some Catholics in the United Kingdom who are, in this legal context, regarded as second class citizen. Repeal of this unnecessary and potentially internationally embarrassing Act in view of the upcoming Papal visit, would ensure consistency in the Government’s commitment to Human Rights for all its citizens, an essential prerequisite in a modern, pluralist society.  

Why does this matter?

The repeal of the discriminatory clauses in the 1701 Act of Settlement against Roman Catholics is important as it sends a signal to the country’s second largest Christian denomination that historic anti-Catholic legalisation and bigotry is not tenable in a modern democratic Britain that this globally-orientated and pluralistic. Moreover, the repeal of these discriminatory provisions would send a larger signal to an international audience that the UK is responsive in changing legislation in line with Human Rights and Equality concerns. Importantly, this issue has been recognised on numerous occasions by all major political parties and has featured in discussions between Buckingham Palace and the former Labour Government and was also the subject of a private members bill by Dr Evan Harris, the Lib Dem MP. That there is cross political support for its repeal, would assist in a speedy resolution of the issue.  The repeal of this Act would also ensure consistency in the treatment of all religious groups, furthering the Government’s commitment to legal equality, a point that would indirectly assist the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland.  

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