Protestants across the UK need to act to preserve their unique British heritage.
That was the message from the Director of Services of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Dr David Hume, at a conference in Glasgow at the weekend.
Dr Hume said that it had become almost embarrassing to speak about the UK in any Protestant context and that labelling people defending their British heritage as bigots was a sign of immaturity.
Addressing the bi-annual conference of the County Grand Lodge of Central Scotland in Motherwell, he said that those who have promoted political agendas which have attempted to downgrade the national identity of the UK are playing a dangerous game.
“Those who have promoted agendas which have attempted to downgrade the national identity of the UK are now in danger of inadvertently handing political victories to parties who are capitalising on the frustration and annoyance of ordinary people, who are now made to feel that they should be ashamed to display their British identity.
“The truth is that being British is not about race, or creed or culture.
“Being British is about pluralism not uniformity, it is about respect for difference and about difference itself,” he said.
Dr Hume said: “The issue of the Act of Settlement is a case in point, with attempts to portray the present constitutional arrangements as being about bigoted outlooks best confined to the 17th century.
“The truth, as one leading historian put it on Radio Four recently, is very different; the issue is whether a future monarch would be taking political direction if they were Roman Catholic from the Pope, who is a temporal head of state.
“The solution to it all is very simple. The Vatican should withdraw its insistence that the children of mixed marriages must be brought up as Roman Catholics. This would allow individual conscience to prevail.
“This was the very issue that so concerned Irish Unionists in the period 1886-1914 and modern Ulster Protestants believe that they were right to oppose Home Rule for the very same reasons that we have concerns over revoking the Act of Settlement today.
“As Ulster-Scots many of us do not come from the Anglican tradition, yet we accept the particular arrangements which inform the succession to the throne. These issues need to be dealt with maturely and require mature discussion. Labelling people as bigots is a sign of immaturity,” Dr Hume said.
In his speech to the conference, he called for members of the Orange Institution to take the lead in a cultural, social and religious revival across the UK and Ireland.
“Our challenge in this modern world is to preserve our heritage, but to do much more than that.
“Our heritage is built on our culture. Our society. Our ethos. The history that has shaped us. And our faith.
“What we need now in this Kingdom is a revival of our identity, for all the best and all the right reasons, a cultural, social and religious revival for the 21st century.”