Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Coronation Oath - A Legal Challenge ??!!

It has been reported that the National Secular Society is instructing Lawyers to consider the possibility of making a legal challenge to the Coronation Oath in particular that part where the Monarch promises to maintain the Protestant Religion

 Archbishop. Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen. All this I promise to do.

The NSS apparently wants to ensure that this part of the Oath is changed before the next Coronation.  Now leaving aside the fact that talking about the wording of the Oath for the next Coronation whilst the present Queen is alive and in good health is in exceedingly bad taste the idea that there could be a legal challenge to the Coronation Oath using the Human Rights Act 1998 is simply legal fairyland. 

To begin with neither the NSS nor anyone in it has legal standing to bring a claim since s7 of the Act says (my emphasis)

 7(1) (1)    A person who claims that a public authority has acted (or proposes to act) in a way which is made unlawful by section 6(1) may
(a)    bring proceedings against the authority under this Act in the appropriate court or tribunal, or
(b)    rely on the Convention right or rights concerned in any legal proceedings,
but only if he is (or would be) a victim of the unlawful act

and therefore the only person who could claim to be a "victim" of the wording of the Coronation Oath is Prince Charles who will, in all probability, be taking the Oath at some unspecified time in the future. The simple legal, as well as political question is, 
"If Prince Charles does not object to taking the Oath what right has anyone else got to object on his behalf ?" 

The fact that the (miniscule) membership of the NSS may object to the wording of the Oath is irrelevant. Lord Diplock noted in R v Inland Revenue Commissioners, ex parte National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses Ltd [1982] AC 617   the need
"to prevent the time of the court being wasted by busybodies with misguided or trivial complaints" 

After all if the NSS could legally object to the wording of the Coronation Oath because they found it "objectionable" then by the same logic any group which objected the existance of the Monarchy itself could equally object to a Coronation itself on the basis that they found that "objectionable"

Finally as was noted by the Canadian Courts in O’Donohue v. Canada, 2003 CanLII 41404 (ON SC) and 2005 CanLII 6369 (ON SC)  which dealt with the position of Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada the Monarchy of the United Kingdom is a Monarchy that is shared with Fifteen other Commonwealth Realms and any changes to the Coronation Oath or the rules relating to eligibility to the Throne cannot be imposed unilaterally by the Government, Parliaments or Courts of any of individual realm but have to be agreed by all the Realms.  In short any attempted legal challenge to the Coronation Oath in the Courts of the UK would be an attempt to interfere in the Government and Constitutions of fifteen other Nations

The NSS will I am sure be aware that the entire story is nonsense and no legal challenge would ever get off the ground however they have got their publicity which is I suspect all they ever really wanted

My other Blogs re the Monarchy

A Catholic Monarch ? The Act of Settlement 1701

Myths about Catholics and the Monarchy

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