Military Service Act

In connection with the recent registration of those subject to military service in the United States, it is learned that in a considerable number of cases Christian Scientists have claimed exemption in three ways: (1) as practitioners; (2) as readers; (3) as conscientious objectors. The question of enlistment seems to be so very personal and individual that it must be worked out by each one on the basis of his own demonstration, but in view of the approaching draft and in response to many inquiries it is believed that the following analysis of the Military Service Act may be helpful to those concerned.

The pertinent parts of the Military Service Act are as follows: "Regular or duly ordained ministers of religion . . . shall be exempt from the selective draft herein prescribed; and nothing in this Act shall be construed to require or compel any person to serve in any of the forces herein provided for who is found to be a member of any well-recognized religious sect or organization at present organized and existing, and whose existing creed or principles forbid its members to participate in war in any form, and whose religious convictions are against war or participation therein in accordance with the creed or principles of said religious organizations, but no person so exempted shall be exempted from service in any capacity that the President shall declare to be noncombatant." "Students who at the time of the approval of this Act are preparing for the ministry in recognized theological or divinity schools" are equally exempt with ministers. Another exempt class is "persons engaged in industries, including agriculture, found to be necessary to . . . the maintenance of national interest during the emergency." Still another is "those in a status with respect to persons dependent on them for support which renders their exclusion or discharge advisable."

Taking this Act as a whole, it might be said that those practitioners whose cards appear in The Christian Science Journal might be regarded as exempt, but that only a very liberal interpretation of the Act would exempt other practitioners, or readers. In this connection it might be said that all Christian Scientists should be ministers, but no class is set apart in the manner called "regular." It should be said also that a Christian Scientist could not claim exemption as a conscientious objector, without misrepresenting Christian Science, for in the church tenets or platform of the Christian Science church no specific reference is made to participation in war.

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"The spiritual ultimate"
July 14, 1917

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