New Human Rights Act gives Catholics access to British throne
The ban on a Catholic monarch is certain to be overturned because it does not comply with the new Human Rights Act, according to leading British lawyers.
The ban breaches two of the convention's 14 provisions, the lawyers say, and a legal challenge from the Scottish National Party is already being prepared. The relevant sections are article 12, which gives everyone the right to marry whoever he or she wants, and article 14, which says that it is the right of everyone not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
The convention came into force on 2 October.
Lord St John of Fawsley, the former Tory minister and expert on constitutional issues, said: "There may well be a challenge under the Act. But what is also required is that anyone who ascends the throne would have to be able to join in communion with the Church of England. If that requirement also goes, as I suppose it might, then the whole establishment goes."
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said: "An heir to the crown should be free to marry whoever he wishes, whatever denomination."
Controversy was provoked last month when Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, disclosed in his political diaries that the Prince of Wales had said that he did not see why a Catholic should be prevented from ascending to the throne.