Cameron The Secularist?

We have a radical, revolutionary Prime Minister who thinks that Roman Catholics are – brace yourself – decent enough human beings to marry the Head of State of the United Kingdom.

David Cameron has put forward two highly controversial proposals.  Firstly, that males should not leapfrog their female siblings in the order of succession to the throne.  And secondly, that our Head of State should be entitled to marry a Roman Catholic.  And yes, David Cameron is the Prime Minister of a democracy, in the twenty-first century, just in case you were wondering.

Cameron has described the ban on our monarch marrying a Roman Catholic as a “historical anomaly”.  I dealt with this subject here at the time of the royal wedding this year, and my opinion has not changed since then: the whole institution of the monarchy is an anomaly, not just one or two bits.

I support these proposals wholeheartedly and I think it is excellent that Cameron is trying to open up the debate.  Actually, “open up the debate” might not be the best phrase; perhaps “lob a grenade” would be better, because the proposals will no doubt create controversy even though they should be no-brainers for anyone who rejects the idea that ownership of a penis and testicles, coupled with a belief or feigned belief in the correct deity, should have any relevance in determining a democracy’s head of state.

Cameron does not go far enough, though.  He doesn’t propose changing the ban on monarchs themselves being Roman Catholic, on the basis that the British monarch is also supreme governor of the Church of England (a bit like being God’s head prefect).

Well, Dave, I know you had the very best education that money can buy but I can see you’re struggling to come up with a solution to that little brain-teaser.  Like you, I was fortunate enough to attend a private school (but not nearly as prestigious as the one you attended).  If you will allow me to be so bold and insubordinate, I will suggest a solution.  It’s really easy but I don’t mind giving you a clue because I know you’re busy at the moment trying to come up with good reasons not to sack Liam Fox.  It’s one word, beginning with ‘D’ and ending with “isestablishment”.  As Rolf Harris would say, Do you know what it is yet?

The fact that a Roman Catholic cannot currently marry our Head of State or become our Head of State is horrid as it represents genuine and blatant religious discrimination woven into the fabric of our democracy, a democracy which should be a shining light to other democracies and aspiring democracies across the world, not a quirky freak show.

Many people will not be aware that the National Secular Society, an organisation that is consistently and unfairly portrayed as anti-religious, is one of the strongest advocates for rectifying bigoted, discriminatory and sectarian laws – sorry, “historical anomalies” – such  as these, which entrench the power of the Church of England at the expense of people of other faiths or none.

I doubt Cameron will dress up his proposal for equal treatment of Roman Catholics as Secularism because that very word would be enough to cause some members of his own party to expel their Earl Grey over their freshly-ironed copy of the Daily Telegraph, even though it would probably keep some of the Liberal Democrat members of the Coalition happy.

Although it’s a shame that the British Prime Minister doesn’t have the balls to use the squalid, taboo terminology of “Secularism”, I suppose I can’t be too greedy.  If this proposal goes through, then regardless of how it’s dressed up it will still represent a giant leap forward, eradicating an unsightly but nonetheless very harmful historical constitutional mutation.  And more importantly, it might even act as pathfinder for wider secular reforms in the future.

Revolutions aside, constitutional changes don’t generally happen overnight. But even a journey of a thousand miles has to begin with one, small step.

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