Opposing views on the men of conscience
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The arrival of Military Tribunals to consider men’s appeals against serving inevitably put a spotlight on those who refused to serve on grounds of conscience. An editorial on 21 January 1916 made it clear where the Shipley Times & Express stood on the subject. Under the headline ‘Shipley Minister and the Compulsion Bill’ they started by giving the case for conscience: ‘The Rev H W Burdett, pastor of the Rosse Street Baptist Church, Shipley, said in his address to the Brotherhood: “There is a minority of good  citizens who, after anxious thought, cannot reconcile war with the ideals of human brotherhood or with the
teachings of Christ. “They believe with a passionate conviction that Christ has        revealed a deeper way of conquering evil and it will be a sorry day for England when such men are persecuted and punished. “The Conscience Clause is necessary to deal with such men but it does not satisfy them. The State is a community of free men associated for mutual help and it has no moral right to compel men to kill other men.” But the writer then made it clear that this wasn’t the view of the newspaper. German Eagle He wrote: ‘Still this “minority” – a few amongst those who are holding
back – whose conscience will not allow them to hurt a single feather in the wing of the German Eagle, believe with Mr Burdett that we have a righteous cause and being “passionate followers of the Master” they will doubtless be anxious to emulate His example of self-sacri- fice and “do their bit for righteous- ness sake.” Convictions ‘It is rather unkind to suggest, as does one correspondent of the Express that the conscientious objectors are holding back because they are more concerned about keeping their own skins whole than those of the enemy. ‘We stand for conscience; we give them credit for being honest in their convictions and commend to their careful consideration the following
reply which Major Archer-Shee, MP for Central Finsbury, sent to one of his constituents who asked him to oppose the Military Service Bill. “I am home on three days’ leave to vote for the Bill you mention which includes a Conscience Clause and I hope that all those who conscientiously object to killing the enemies of their country may be employed in mending the wire in front of the trenches, a duty which at present has to be performed by armed men but which could be quite as easily done without arms protec- ted by our men. “They would then be doing use- ful work for the country and while not killing any of the enemy would have the oppor- tunity of laying down their lives for their country.”
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