Objections based on conscience
‘Objections based on conscience’ may be either 'objections of conscience' or 'conscientious objections.' The difference between the two is that the former are recognized by the law, for e.g., to object to workers receiving different pay on the basis of race or sex for the same work done), while the latter are to compulsory military service, or to a passed law itself. The latter situation is problematic for by the very idea of rule of law it cannot be legal to not follow a law, and so legal penalty is likely to be incurred for doing so. The possibility that laws may be unjust or against Natural rights and be passed motivated by political, ideological, economic or personal reasons is the very rationale why conscientious objections may need to be made. Historically the making of such objections have contributed to the abolition of slavery, determent of or cooperation in war crimes, genocide, and killings based on age, sex, disability, illness, utility, looks, race, social or economic reasons. Post WWII Nuremberg trials remind of one’s responsibility to a higher law, such as international law, rather than follow orders of superiors or Governments when a moral choice is in fact possible (Principle IV of Nuremberg), and the right to make ‘conscientious objections’ has been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights and other international institutions.
'Objections based on conscience' are also important rights individuals have who are members of professions – who serve and enrich society by working to a particular ‘Code of ethics’ or professed missions - and so 'not-have-to-perform or cooperate' in actions that may be legal for political, ideological, or economic reasons, but their members recognize contrary to their professional ethics. This is particularly so of the professions of medicine, law, teaching, journalism and pastoral care, as they require a degree of autonomy to provide their services to benefit society and individuals, and not just be an arm - or at the total disposition of - the State.*
*'Objections based on conscience' may arise for the different professions regarding issues that include:
For medics: abortion, euthanasia, IVF, motivations for prenatal screening, attempts at gender-altering using medical / surgical procedures, obtaining true 'informed consent' (vs its legal fiction), recreational drug-use prescribing, sharing of confidential information, discrimination based on biological information/ differences, involvement in human experimentation, executions, torture, lying, bribe taking, whistle-blowing;
For lawyers: following unjust political, ideological, business or judicial pressures or bias; use of bribes, lying, document / post falsifications; divorce case handling;
For teachers: teaching ideologies, morals or ideas they believe wrong, harmful, or against parents’ wishes; discriminating students on the basis of such ideas;
For journalists: not being able to resist unjust editorial / media owners pressures, bias or conflicts of interests (& their adequate disclosure) for balanced reporting, the omission of important facts or viewpoints; respect for rights of 'presumption of innocence', good name & character; handling of errors and responses; responsibility for minimizing risk of harm to persons and society by publishing harmful ideas, images, viewpoints, interests, comments and advertisements of such products or services;
For pastors: not resisting unjust State, or other politico- ideological or economic interests or pressures that may affect teachings, morals or pastoral care.
Prepared by: Richard Cervin