British attorney general calls for rights for Catholics
The law should be changed to allow the monarch to be a Roman Catholic or to marry a member of that faith, Lord Williams, the British Attorney General, said at the weekend.
In an interview with The Telegraph, he said the Act of Settlement of 1701, which prohibits a Catholic from succeeding to the throne, was discriminatory and should be amended.
He said: "I don't like any form of discrimination. My personal view is that there shouldn't be any such bar."
Reform of the Act - a cornerstone of the constitution - would raise doubts about the monarch's position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and lead to questions about the Anglican Church's status as the official state religion.
However, Lord Williams said he would welcome such a debate. "I am a baptised and confirmed member of the Church in Wales which has been disestablished since the 1920s and it works very well. It's healthy to have that debate in a community which now has many different faiths in it."
He also reiterated his view that the law should be changed to give royal daughters equal rights to succeed to the throne. He said that it would not come into effect for years and would not affect the position of the Prince of Wales or Prince William.
Opposition to the Act of Settlement has grown in recent years, with lawyers claiming that it conflicted with the Human Rights Act. It not only bars a Roman Catholic from succeeding to the throne, but forbids the heir to the throne from marrying a Catholic.
Prince Charles has indicated his willingness to change the religious role of the monarch by saying he wants to be the "defender of faith" rather than of "the faith" when he becomes King.