Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Independence and the Monarchy

Currently the relationship between the monarchy and the church in Scotland is legally governed by Article XXV.IV of the Act of Union 1707.  

All new sovereigns are bound on accession to swear to uphold the Church of Scotland:

“.. . after the Decease of the Present Majesty ... the Sovereign succeeding to her in the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain shall in all time coming at His or Her Accession to the Crown swear and subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid Settlement of the True Protestant Religion with the Government Worship Discipline Rights and Privileges of this Church as above established by the Laws of this Kingdom in Prosecution of the Claim of Right.”

This the only oath legally required of the Sovereign by the Act of Union. 

In a possible independent Scotland we would, presumably, still recognise the Monarchy. Would the new King or Queen still be required to take this or a similar oath, upholding the “true Protestant Religion”?  That is very questionable. The Act of Union, being no longer in effect, such an oath would not be required.

However, if the referendum rejects independence should the Monarch still be expected to take this vow?  The Act of Union still being in effect it would still be legally required.

It is a meaningless oath.  Can you take a oath which is beyond your power to accomplish; can you take a vow that is imposed by a legal requirement; is such a oath truly voluntary.

The Confession of Faith states regarding oaths and vows:

It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty.”  

I suppose it could be argued that the Monarch voluntarily chooses to take this oath – they are free not to do so, but then there would be a constitutional crisis. 

Equally the WCF says, 

No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God.”

So how does a constitutional Monarch have the power to “inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid Settlement of the True Protestant Religion with the Government Worship Discipline Rights and Privileges of this Church”?  What would this Monarch have the power to do in regard to such issues? They cannot influence the G.A. because in Scotland the Monarch may be a “member” of the church but, unlike in England, they are not the “supreme governor” of the church.  They would be free to speak on such issues, but they have no power to enforce them.

Furthermore, such a vow would not only be meaningless, it might be hypocritical. If the new Monarch did not himself or herself believe the True Protestant Faith, if they were not genuinely committed to biblical Christianity and the Reformed Faith, then obliging them to take such a vow might be encouraging them to act dishonestly.

A constitutional Monarch has only paper powers – the real power in an independent Scotland would rest with the Scottish Parliament.   What guarantees would they give to uphold the True Protestant Faith?  None whatsoever!  There is no draft constitution,  although the SNP produced a model constitution in 2002 which declares that 

Every person has the right to freedom of thought and of conscience and to the free confession and the practice of religion.”

We will have moved from an Established Church recognised by the State to the vague promise of religious freedom, presumably as long as it does not conflict with other principles of equality that are anti-Christian in their consequences.

Personally, I find it difficult to get excited about this issue.  The current legal position is a meaningless sham where a Monarch vows to uphold that to which they themselves may have no personal commitment.  If that changes, so what?  The church does not grow because of royal support; it will not be hindered by the lack of royal support.

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