Page 2, 10th October 1941

10th October 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 10th October 1941 — CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION'

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SIR.—Perhaps the following observations may help the Duke of Bedford to a juster appreciation of the Civil Defence Duties (Compulsory Enrolment) Order, 1941. Exemption from enrolment can be claimed by any person who, for example, already performs duties under the Fire Prevention (Business Premises) Order, 1941, for not less than 48 hours a month, or similar duties for the same period in one of the voluntary schemes in residential areas, recognised by the local authority. These duties arc, briefly, to save not only property but also human life from destruction by fire. Now a conscientious objection to sonic course of conduct is a judgment of the reason that this conduct is morally wrong. Conscientious objectors to performing the above duties are, therefore, people who believe it to be morally wrong to save property and human life from destruction by fire. It is true that the State has not recognised a conscientious objection as a ground for claiming exemption. But these people are amply provided for by exempting all lunatics from the duty of registering under the Order.

Having clearly apprehended what a conscientious objection really is, the Duke might well do something to help the conscientious objectors to military service. The tribunal authorities seem to harbour the most fantastic notion on this subject. They appear, for instance, to think that nobody but a member of some Christian religious body can possibly have a conscientious objection to anything. Which means that only such persons can form an ethical judgment between right and wrong. Which is plain nonsense. It is only fair to add that many of the objectors share the same delusion, and for the same reason, namely ignorance and muddle-headedness. I do not share the opinions of conscientious objectors, but I believe most firmly that they, like all others, should have justice under the law. The Duke might do them a real service if he could help to secure that the Tribunals accepted the definition of " conscientious objection " which I have given. and also to confine their enquiries to elucidating these two points: First, whether the objection to military service alleged before them is in fact a " conscientious " objection ; i.e,, does the objector profess to believe that it is morally wrong to do military service. And, secondly, whether the objector genuinely holds this opinion.


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