LONDON, Mar. 2, 01 (CWNews.com) - Members of Parliament
last night voted in favor of a bill which will allow
Catholic priests to sit in the House of Commons.
The Removal of Clergy Disqualification Bill aims to reverse
a 200-year-old law that prevents some serving and former
ministers of religion from becoming MPs. Although Catholic
canon law forbids priests from taking up political
positions, British law had also barred former priests from
sitting in Westminster.
However, Tory MP, Ann Widdecombe, herself a Catholic argued
that it was wrong for serving ministers of religion to
become MPs as this would cause a conflict of interest
between "God and Caesar." Catholic convert John Gummer
added that the issue was problematic because MPs would be
making a statement in English law about what he described
as an ecclesiastical matter. Gummer said that being a
priest was the "highest demand" and to do something other
than that like becoming an MP was "odd."
Andrew Stunell, a Liberal Democrat, said the folly of the
current restrictions on clergy entering politics was that
it was "keeping good people out of the House."
"It ought to be an offense to us that in this day and age
we do have religious discrimination built into our
legislation," he said.