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British government to reconsider Catholic monarch ban

.- The British government is considering whether to abolish the 300-year-old Act of Settlement that forbids Catholics from sitting on the British throne, the Scotsman reports.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, revealed the proposal after he unveiled the draft of the sweeping Constitutional Reform Bill yesterday.

The bill did not include any proposal to abolish what Catholics have called legalized discrimination.  However, the topic was raised in the House of Commons by Labour MP Jim Devine, a Catholic.

Devine described the Act of Settlement as “legalized sectarianism which has no role in the 21st century,” calling for it to be repealed.

Straw told Devine that the proposal was complicated by the monarch’s position as head of the Church of England.  However, Straw granted that the law was seen as “antiquated,” saying, “We are certainly ready to consider this.”

Abolishing the Act of Settlement would require changes to the Act of Union, which secures the role of the Protestant Presbyterian Church in Scotland.  The government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, fearing nationalist influence, may be reluctant to modify the legislation that formally holds the United Kingdom together.

Other measures in the draft bill include reductions in the power of the prime minister to appoint Anglican bishops.

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