The Royal Oath; An Invidious and Deceptive Anachronism

An oath is a formal declaration or promise to carry out an action or maintain a pledge. Many oaths call on God or a sacred object to act as a witness and most involve allegiance to a person or cause.  Oaths are made all over the place, many in a legal context. Such is the nature of the oaths which our MPs, military personnel (except the Royal Navy!), police officers and other public officials must make to the Queen. As the Republic group points out it is a complete affront to the spirit of democracy that our elected representatives have to swear allegiance to an unelected monarch. Here is the oath which our MPs must take.

I (MP name) 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.

There are some variations which can be taken, such as a non-religious equivalent, but the substance is the same in all cases. Note that until they take the oath they cannot represent you or I and do the job for which they were elected. As I have pointed out earlier, this has been, and still is, a problem for some Irish political parties.

There are two things to note about the oath.  Firstly is the assumption that the monarch embodies the state in person and thus represents us all in a kind of social contract.  The fact is that this is a constitutional figment which has been abused for centuries is beyond dispute (see here,paragraph 3).  The difference is that whereas in previous centuries this abuse has taken the form of political or military oppression, in modern times this privilege takes the form of protections for private interests, such as mineral rights.

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BHA2106 – A Republican Amongst Humanists; Shared Values.

The events of the past week have shown only too clearly the dire state of the UK Constitution and the danger of racism and fanaticism which lurks close to the surface of our society. So, though this post is a little overdue, I decided that the importance of both the Republic Campaign and British Humanist Association organisations made it worth pursuing. Here are my brief impressions of the BHA Conference 2016 held between 10th and 12th June (only last weekend, surely!!).  This year the Conference was held in at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham and the local Republic group seized the opportunity to have a presence by means of a stand in the main hall.  Along with the co-ordinator of Republic Birmingham it was a great pleasure to attend for the Saturday, commitments preventing me attending on the Sunday.

What was particularly significant is that Humanism and modern Republicanism share a common heritage in the Renaissance, inspired by the governmental writings of the classical world, especially Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero. Indeed, Classical Republicanism was a synonym for Civic Humanism. Since these beginnings in the Italian City States  of the 15th and 16th Centuries  Republicanism and Humanism have drift apart slightly in terms of their objectives, with modern Republicanism placing the advancement of liberty in political and constitutional terms as its central concern. This allows religious groups such as Quakers to espouse Republicanism but not Humanism.

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