By Caroline Davies, Guardian
Campaigners are to attempting to launch a legal challenge to the Christian coronation of future monarchs in an attack on the most powerful symbol of the union between church and state.
The National Secular Society (NSS) has instructed lawyers to investigate challenging the ancient religious rite under human rights legislation.
Keith Porteous Wood, the NSS executive director, said: "The country has changed out of all recognition since the last coronation and we should now be devising an investiture ceremony for the next head of state everyone can feel part of.
"A non-religious ceremony allows everybody to feel equally valued, and there is no reason that it should lack pomp or colourful ceremony simply because it is not religious, as with the ceremonies that take place in France or the US. "It is no longer appropriate to install the head of state in a religious service of one Christian denomination which – on a normal Sunday – less than 2% of the population attend."
Lawyers at Leigh Day, a firm of solicitors specialising in human rights, and Matrix chambers, have been instructed, he said. The NSS expects the challenge to focus on article 9 of the European convention on human rights, on the grounds that allowing the Church of England to perform such a ceremony limits the rights of conscience of the many people who do not subscribe to its beliefs, and article 14, which prohibits discrimination of any kind.
Arun Arora, the director of communications at the Church of England, said: "This flawed publicity stunt is mired in misunderstanding and confusion. The invocation of human rights legislation risks undermining the perception of vital laws purely for partisan purposes.
"To politicise the coronation in this way is a misguided and misjudged act by a campaign group of less than 10,000 members."