The Oath of Allegiance and the Crown-in-Parliament
Shame on them. And shame in particular upon the professing Conservative, Peter Bottomley, whose name appears among the sundry second-rate Socialists and irrelevant Liberal Democrats, thereby permitting the proposal to be labelled ‘cross-party’. Loyalty to the Crown must be the very least one might expect from a Tory, and the appearance of the name of a professing Conservative on this motion serves to remind us that there are traitors in our midst.
The wording of the oath has been much amended over the centuries, but currently reads: 'I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.' Atheists are allowed to replace ‘Almighty God’ by saying that they 'solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm' their allegiance.
The campaign group Republic is planning a legal challenge, saying the current rules ‘discriminate against Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs and members of other religions who object to swearing allegiance to the head of the Church of England.’ It also breaches the human rights of those who have 'firmly held beliefs' against the monarchy. Republic spokesman Graham Smith says: 'It is vital we challenge these offensive and discriminatory oaths of allegiance. They are completely out of date.'
The moment words like ‘offensive’, ‘outdated’ and ‘discriminatory’ appear, and appeal is made on the grounds of ‘human rights’, it is inevitable that the EU will be the final court of appeal. But Cranmer is yet to hear from any British ‘Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs’ (has Republic discriminated against Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Jedi Knights?) who have a problem taking this oath.
And where does such reasoning end? The next step will be a demand for an alternative national anthem, for how can atheists or republicans stand and sing ‘God save the Queen’?
But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who is spearheading the campaign, asserts that this ‘is a matter of democracy’. He says, ‘I'm put here by my constituents and it's to them I owe my allegiance. Taking the oath to an unelected person is a nonsense.'
Yet Norman Baker and the other 21 MPs, not to mention most of the media, have got it quite wrong. This is not an oath which demands allegiance to an ‘unelected person’ - the Queen – an individual, but to the Crown – an institution which is the embodiment of British State, the Constitution and the Rule of Law. It has been the means by which all those who have sought to subvert the state and assassinate the Monarch (quite literally) have been kept out of Westminster. As terrorists like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness refused to swear the oath of allegiance to the Crown, they were legitimately barred from taking their seats at Westminster. To abolish the oath, or, as Mr Bottomley would have it, to make it optional, would be the end of the Crown-in-Parliament, and would lead inexorably to the end of Constitutional Monarchy.
The tensions between Crown and Parliament appear to surface every few centuries or so, and the Constitution adapts to accommodate the latest demands. The oath of allegiance has historically been sworn by MPs, judges, church leaders, the military and police officers, but now it is deemed to breach ‘human rights’. Instead, the Commons and the Lords should be permitted to swear allegiance to their 'constituents and the nation'.
It is difficult to believe that the very bodies which are ignoring the oath made by Her Majesty to Almighty God to govern her people ‘according to their laws and customs’, and which are denying their constituents a referendum on the EU Constitution, have any regard at all for either their constituents or their nation. The Sovereign is apolitical, unpartisan, and the embodiment of the sovereignty of the nation, for she is the ultimate defender of the rights and liberties of the people, in whom sovereignty ultimately resides.
Those MPs who have a problem with the oath understand little of history, less of the Constitution, and nothing of the political philosophy of sovereignty. The oath is not a mere form of words to subject the Commons to the Monarch, but it serves to remind those who govern us that they are themselves accountable not merely every four or five years to their constituents, but daily to the Crown and to Almighty God. The oath constitutes one of the precarious checks and balances in the exercise of power, and serves to mitigate against the ‘elective dictatorship’ which would otherwise be absolutely omnipotent for its term of office.
But this is not the first time the complex relationship between the Crown and Parliament has been scrutinised in the context of the EUs ‘Charter of Human Rights’. The Act of Settlement has been subject to objection for violations on the grounds of its ‘anti-Catholic’ provisions, and is now ‘subject to the Commission’s tolerance’ - i.e. it can stand for the present, but is under review.
It is kind and benevolent indeed for our masters in Brussels to tolerate the British Constitution.
All of these developments fly in the face of the Queen’s promise ‘to maintain to the utmost of (her) power the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed religion established by law’, and her added assurance, with Bible in hand: ‘The things I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God.’ In swearing this, she committed herself and the Crown-in-Parliament to uphold the supremacy of Scripture. Thus every Member of Parliament swearing their Oath of Allegiance, while not being constrained in their individual conscience to profess the Christian faith, is certainly declaring their commitment to defend biblical Christianity. Allegiance to the Crown must, at the very least, demand a defence of the oaths and promises the Monarch makes to his or her subjects, for, unlike other European nations with monarchies, the British Throne is not merely a symbol of popularity or an ingredient of constitutional ceremony with minor political functions, but the maintaining legal foundation of biblical Christianity.