A century of the right to conscientious objection

By staff writers
March 1, 2016

Tomorrow (2 March) marks the centenary of the passing of the Military Service Act which brought compulsory military service into British law and with it, for the first time, the right to conscientious objection.

Methodists from across the UK will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the right to refuse to fight in war at a special free event held at Englesea Brook Chapel, Crewe, on Sunday 20 March.

Dr Jill Barber, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, historian and Director of Englesea Brook Museum explains the relationship between conscientious objection and the Methodist Church: "At the start of the First World War, many Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists were challenged to reconsider their attitude to war and peace. Methodists such as Bert Brocklesby and Jack Foister faced prison, rebuke from their families or church community, and even death, for their principled refusal to take up arms.

"As a result of their courageous stance alongside others, Britain became the first nation to enshrine in law the right to Conscientious Objection."

The service will be led by the Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal, former President of the Methodist Conference and will include prayers and reflections around the commemoration. It will be broadcast live online .

To coincide with the centenary, the organisation Conscience has launched a Taxes for Peace Bill which will be introduced in Parliament later this year by Quaker MP Ruth Cadbury. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22606)

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