Position Statement on Monarchy

Starting from the basic premise of atheism – it is not true that God exists – It does not follow that there should be no monarchy. It is not self-contradictory for an atheist to be a monarchist or for a theist to be a republican, as most theists in the world are. Indeed, it is not self-contradictory for a monarch to be an atheist.

However, it does follow, from the same premise, that a state’s – and, therefore, its head’s – authority  should not be founded on the Theory of Divine Right, irrespective of whether that head of state is a monarch or a president. The Irish constitution provides an example of the latter:-

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

For that reason, Atheism UK pressed for and obtained the following in the 2011 Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life:-

The sovereignty of the State is derived from the people and not from any god or gods.

The British monarchy abandoned the Theory of Divine Right at the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the Bill of Rights 1689 makes it clear that its authority is derived from the people and not from God. Therefore, Atheism UK holds no position, one way or the other, as to the existence of the British monarchy per se. This is a matter for individual members who can, if they choose, join organizations that campaign for its abolition.

It is not the British monarchy per se but the following, of its statutory conditions of tenure, that offend against the principles of atheism and must be abolished:-

Anglican Succession

The Act of Settlement 1701, provides:-

That whosoever shall hereafter come to the Possession of this Crown shall joyn in Communion with the Church of England as by Law established.

Coronation Oath

The same act, provides:-

Every King and Queen of this Realm who shall come to and succeed in the Imperial Crown of this Kingdom by virtue of this Act shall have the Coronation Oath administered to him her or them at their respective Coronations

The objectionable element of the oath is:-

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?

The oath must be administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury or York, or any other bishop of the realm appointed by the monarch for that purpose.

Accession Declaration

The Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Accession Declaration Act 1910, in combination, require the monarch to make the following declaration on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament after the accession:-

I do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.

All these objectionable conditions stem from the position of the British head of state as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which is the established church in England. This, again, is irrespective of whether that head of state is a monarch or a president.

Atheism UK holds a robust position in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England, which necessarily includes the British head of state ceasing to be its Supreme Governor. The abolition, of the Anglican succession, the religious element of the Coronation Oath and the Accession Declaration, are subsumed into that aim.

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