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Labour party mulls ouster of Queen from Church of England

Britain's ruling party may be on track to oust Queen from Church of England as top leaders of Labour stepped up pressure on government for the 'disestablishment' of Church.

By: Agencies | London |
December 22, 2008 10:08:57 am

Britain’s ruling party may be on track to oust the Queen from the Church of England as top leaders of the Labour stepped up pressure on the government for the “disestablishment” of the Church, a news report has said.

Britain’s top bishop last week ignited the issue by suggesting the possible ouster of the Queen from the Church of England, as he endorsed the “disestablishment” of the Church.

For centuries the monarch has constitutionally been the supreme governor of Church in England, the main emblems of establishment. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested that he could see a day when the British monarch is removed as head of the Church of England. It would not be “the end of the world” if the Church of England was “disestablished,” he told the ‘New Statesman’ magazine.

Now a growing chorus of voices is calling for the centuries-old link between Church and state to be broken. Three former ministers openly backed the idea of a separation, with one claiming that the majority of backbenchers would vote to end the special position the Church has enjoyed since the Reformation, the Daily Telegraph said.

“The vast majority of Labour MPs would support disestablishment. I would,” said David Cairns, a former Roman Catholic priest, who resigned as a minister at the Scotland Office two months ago in protest at Gordon Browns leadership.

He said the current position was “untenable”.

Other senior MPs backing the idea of a separation include Alun Michael, the former Welsh secretary, and Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister, the report in the British daily said.

Now the controversial issue of “disestablishment” has been ignited in Parliament and within the Church of England itself. It has prompted the Conservatives to demand that the Labour government “comes clean” about a report being drawn up in Downing Street on ways to reform a key element of the established Church, the 1701 Act of Settlement, which bars a Catholic from ascending to the throne.

Cairns said a repeal of the Act of Settlement could trigger the process of disestablishment.

It is thought that Labour could pledge to change the law in its election manifesto, paving the way for a re-examination of the Church’s position if Gordon Brown was returned to power, the paper said.

You have to think through the consequences. If Prince William married a Catholic what happens if their children are Catholic? You can’t have a Roman Catholic head of the Church of England. So you have to have some way of resolving the issue of the head of state being the titular head of the established Church,” Cairns was quoted as saying by the daily.

“If the Archbishop himself is raising the prospect of disestablishment why not do something about it?

In 2000, two years before he became archbishop, Williams told a Christian festival: “I think that the notion of the monarch as supreme governor has outlived its usefulness.”

A strong push was made by liberals and dissenters for “disestablishment” in England in the late 19th century.

Although it was unsuccessful, the issue has never entirely gone away.

Reports during the 60th birthday celebration of Prince Charles last month suggested that he would like to be known as the “defender of faith” rather than “the faith”.

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