Bar on Ex-priests in House of Commons to Be Lifted

Current Law Dates Back to Reformation

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LONDON, JAN. 15, 2001 (
Lawmakers are poised to rush legislation through Parliament to repeal a series of anti-Catholic laws preventing former priests from sitting in the House of Commons, the Guardian reported today.

The host of ecclesiastical acts dating back more than 400 years to the Reformation will be overturned after a Labor candidate in a safe seat discovered that, if elected, technically he would be barred from entering Westminster, the newspaper said.

David Cairns, selected by the local party to defend a majority in the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency, has lobbied for the law to be changed after learning that he would be unable to represent the constituency, because until 1994 he had been a priest, the newspaper said. Any former clergymen ordained by a bishop are prevented from representing parliamentary constituencies, except those ordained by the Church of England after an exception was made in 1870. The anti-Catholic laws were adopted in an era when discrimination was rampant.

Mike O´Brien, a Home Office minister, is expected to present the move as a noncontroversial “tidying up” move when the intention to repeal is announced, possibly today.

The government is hoping for cross-party support for a measure that also applies to a number of other Christian faiths such as the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.

Cairns, 34, said Sunday: “I´m very pleased the government has decided to sort this out. I have always believed it is not the business of the state to decide the members of which religious denominations can and cannot be in the House of Commons.”

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