Conscientious Objection and Apartheid in Today’s Australia

18 November 2021

12.2 MINS

For the majority of Australians, life is returning to normal. For those who choose conscientious objection, Australia now feels like an apartheid state. Take a look at history: the parallels are real.

I hold a conscientious objection to taking any of the Covid-19 vaccines. There is simply no way I am going to take it — and there is no way I will be coerced or mandated into taking it.

Conscientious objection has a long history. It is more relevant than ever at a time when governments are mandating a drug that contains uncertain constituents — and worse, creating a segregated, apartheid society to punish the unvaccinated until they take it.

My father’s experiences in World War Two shed important light on our times.

My Father and Conscientious Objection

My parents married on the 20th July, 1940 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. Almost immediately they were immersed in the Sheffield Blitz: the nights of the German Luftwaffe bombing.

The worst nights were the 12th and 15th of December, 1940. My father, who was a Christadelphian, was teaching high school at the time under a Quaker headmaster. Both of them, for religious reasons, were conscientious objectors, refusing to serve in the armed forces.

Every day my dad had to walk past scenes like those below. I can’t imagine what he thought was happening to the world, his dreams and his young marriage.

Sheffield citizens go about their daily business after a high street is bombed (Image: Yorkshire Live)

The department of education and the legal system went after the conscientious objectors. As a result, my father and his headmaster were both sacked. My dad could have been sent to prison or sentenced to hard labour on the land as some of his mates were. But his boss miraculously got a new position as head teacher at Bradford Grammar School, about forty-four miles north of Sheffield. From there, he was able to hire my dad! So, my parents moved north to Bradford, and my father began working with his old headmaster.

In the end, my dad’s experience of being a conscientious objector was not so bad after all — but he did have to move to a new city away from family and friends. My father remained at Bradford Grammar School all his teaching life, the last twenty-five years of which he was the deputy head.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, conscientious objection was depicted brilliantly in the 2016 Mel Gibson film Hacksaw Ridge.

My Father’s Influence on Me

Growing up, I always had a deep admiration for my father’s courage and convictions. Above all, I would say he was a man of unshakable integrity.

At school, the other kids would often challenge me on my views about conscientious objection. I always found their scenarios so artificial. They would challenge me by suggesting that I wouldn’t defend my wife and children if we were being attacked. The chances of me having the means and the freedom to kill someone while my family were under attack seems so farfetched. Therefore, the scenario was hardly a measure of what conscientious objection was about.

I was always on my own trying to defend conscientious objection. I got used to being in the minority and the other kids always seemed to win. At least, they felt they had won.

The Apartheid System in South Africa

Another memory I had growing up was hearing about the apartheid system in South Africa. My father visited there in the 1960s for a speaking tour. On his return, he told me about the homes he had stayed in. Most were with wealthy white families, all of whom had black servants who lived with the white host families.

I was so shocked that my father condoned this segregation. He explained to me that these black servants lived away from their own families and communities. They were well cared for and had great health and nutrition benefits. Compared with their own families and communities living in the black townships, they were extremely wealthy.

I was horrified, but my dad’s justification for segregation had some logic. The servants hired by my dad’s hosts were certainly lifted out of poverty. Still, it was the apartheid system that created the poverty in the first place.

Conscientious Objection and Apartheid in Australia Today

Fifty years later, I find myself living in Australia under similar circumstances. I never thought I would be facing issues like conscientious objection and apartheid for myself, my family, my community and my nation. Yet here we are.

I am not grappling with conscientious objection and apartheid as moral dilemmas that others need to navigate. No, I am facing them head-on in every waking moment of my life. This is personal now.

The rate of change in our society has radical sped up since 2020, perhaps earlier. Now we hear brazen rhetoric from one of our state premiers, Daniel Andrews, who declared in September that the ‘unvaccinated’ will lose their right to employment and will be “locked out” of both the economy and the healthcare system due to their decision not to take an injection.

What Leads Someone to Conscientious Objection?

Some people suggest that a conscientious objector is by nature likely to be a ‘leader’, while someone who goes along with a controversial government mandate is a ‘follower’. But I do not see it this way.

I believe we were all created equal but unique. A conscientious objector can equally be either a leader or a follower. But it is a personality trait: you either have it or you don’t.

Generally speaking, those who strongly believe in conscientious objection:

A. Test the evidence

For me, evidence is crucial. I have examined the evidence available and have settled firmly on the conviction that there is insufficient evidence for the positive benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines.

To describe me as “vaccine hesitant” is inaccurate. We may have also been hesitant — but that unwittingly implies that we could be persuaded, cajoled or coerced to take the vaccine; or that we are weak, lacking firm convictions, or don’t know our own minds.

Not so. We have simply done our due diligence and have decided we don’t have enough evidence to go with the majority.

I would argue that all of us do the same each winter when we decide to take the flu shot or decline it. It is a free choice, and all of us make that call every year. In my view, this time there should be no difference in how we treat people who become conscientious objectors to the Covid-19 vaccine. People are simply exercising their minds and consciences.

B. Believe in Democracy

Conscientious objectors are passionate about democracy. We believe that the various government responses to Covid-19 have overstepped the mark and violated the pillars democracy.

We believe that the notion of government “by the people, of the people and for the people” has been ignored. We favour small government and take personal responsibility very seriously.

Those in favour of vaccine mandates and who applaud the current Covid-19 measures in general prefer the security of ‘big government’. They trust the government to look after society fairly and justly without as much need for personal responsibility.

This essentially boils down to an ideological position; those who implicitly trust the government and those who don’t. I don’t — and that is why, in good conscience, I believe the vaccine mandates are anti-democratic and only several steps away from the communist or fascist dictatorships of old.

C. Have Strong Religious Convictions

Conscientious objectors are generally religious, believing that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Our bodies are not our own but the Lord’s.

There are also some in this category who believe they have heard specifically and clearly from God not to take the vaccine. This is certainly true for me. We believe that we have been created by God for his purposes, and we believe that to keep a good conscience before God, we cannot agree to vaccination.

The Weapon of Fear

Remember that sense of fear that enveloped the world in early 2020 as we heard for the first time about this unknown coronavirus.

Almost instantaneously, it seemed that every nation had the same headline concerning the new or ‘novel’ virus. Hard on the heels of those headlines, we heard that hospital systems would be overrun. We saw pictures of overcrowded hospitals and morgues, particularly in northern Italy. We saw photos and video footage of people dying in the street in Wuhan, China. Fear was ignited.

Fear of what? Fear of death.

We are all going to die one day. As the saying goes, there are but two certainties in life: death and taxes. I didn’t buy the fear. The reading I did in 2020 revealed that the death rate was only marginally higher than a bad flu season.

I watched as the world became transfixed on daily news bulletins from state and federal authorities. At the centre of the reporting was the number of new cases.

For well over a year now, I have intentionally turned away from the corporate press because of how they have peddled so much fear. In recent months, they have redirected it into coercion to take the vaccine.

The government has also injected a cynical carrot: the sooner we get to a certain percentage, the sooner they will wind back the restrictions and we can be given back our freedoms.

It has not been easy, but I am happy to say that by-and-large, I am still free of the fear factor. I can honestly say that my decision to object to the jab has been without the pressure of fear.

The Weapon of Censorship

Another blight on the media is the way they have simply proved themselves to be a mouthpiece for the government. They rarely question the narrative. As a result, everyday people who listen to them see the issues in black and white. This makes debate with conscientious objectors nearly impossible, since everyone is divided into their separate camps.

The worst evidence of censorship I have seen this year has been by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). On the 9th March, 2021, AHPRA told all of its registered medical practitioners that they must support the ‘national narrative’ — both in their patient consultations and in their private lives.

Any deviation or questioning of the narrative would result in disciplinary action, which can include loss of registration. For those who resist, years of training and experience will be lost, and their freedom to genuinely diagnose the best treatment for a given patient removed. Here is AHPRA’s gag order:

Any promotion of anti-vaccination statements or health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence or seeks to actively undermine the national immunisation campaign (including via social media) is not supported by National Boards and may be in breach of the codes of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action.

National Boards have developed social media guidance to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media. The guidance explains that registered health practitioners must make sure that their social media activity is consistent with the regulatory framework for their profession and does not contradict or counter public health campaigns or messaging, such as the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.

Health practitioners are reminded that it is an offence under the National Law to advertise a regulated health service (including via social media) in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive. Advertising that includes false, misleading or deceptive claims about COVID-19, including anti-vaccination material, may result in prosecution by AHPRA.

This means that I can’t get truly independent medical advice from any registered medical practitioner in Australia. Coupled with the rhetoric from the Victorian Premier, I may not be able to access any Medicare treatment as long as I remain unvaccinated!

Introducing Medical Apartheid

We are now living in a two tired society. It has crept up on us with an increasingly tightened grip over recent months. With justification, we can now compare what is happening in Australia to the events of last century.

Racial apartheid was a reality of life in Germany in the lead up to the Second World War. Anti-Semitism was already rife in the German Reich before 1933, triggered by the deprivations of the Great Depression.

It became almost instinctive to target minorities out of suspicion. This was especially the case for the Jews, since they were doing relatively well on the back of their hard work and more communal lifestyles. At the time, there were just 502,799 Jews out of a total population of 65 million — a mere 0.8 per cent.

Segregation came gradually. Laws were passed by Wilhelm Frick in 1933 known as ‘Special Rights’ (Sonderrechte) which effectively meant a boycott of all Jewish goods.

The boycott campaign of the 1st of April, conducted by the State, marked the start of a concerted effort to deprive Jews of their economic livelihood. The law was known as the “Restoration of the Professional Civil Service”. It was enacted on the 7th of April, 1933. This was the first in a series of occupational bans that led to the mass dismissal of Jewish teachers, university professors and other persons employed in the public service sector.

Two weeks later, Jewish general practitioners were banned. The vacated positions were filled very quickly by “Aryan” candidates seeking work.

Sound familiar? Today, these facts of history send a chill down my spine. In Australia, teachers, university lecturers, doctors and nurses are no longer able to work in their calling and no longer able to provide for their families. They have been ostracised and are regarded by the majority as fanatics and freaks.

The parallels are striking: the closure of our local coffee shops, the bankruptcy of thousands of small businesses, the massive hike in government debt that will likely cripple taxpayers for decades to come, the increase in mental health issues, and the prevalence of suicide — to list but a few.

These depravities feed a group response know as ‘mass formation’ (see video below). If left unchecked, this can provide a natural seedbed for the violence of apartheid to begin.

An Ordinary Day in Apartheid Australia

This week as I was out walking for exercise, I found myself passing my local government offices. I thought, “while I am here, why don’t I call in and see if I can get two matters resolved?”

I was feeling quite optimistic at the time, anticipating the end of the Covid-19 measures. I was thinking about building a veranda on the back of my house, for which I had struggled to find clear details of the necessary planning permissions on the council’s website. Why not call in and talk to a real person?

I also knew that local government council elections were coming up later in December — but I had heard nothing at all about them other than that voting was compulsory. I wanted to enquire about the election and collect details of the candidates.

I approached the entrance, scanned the QR code, and dutifully donned my face mask. I was then approached by the security guard. I presumed he simply wanted to confirm I had successfully scanned in, so I showed him my phone. But sadly, there was more.

He pointed out that to be able to enter the premises, I needed to be double vaccinated. Since I wasn’t, I couldn’t enter. I was politely turned away and told that I could use the phone number found on their website for any enquiries.

My reaction was a mixture of anger and deep sadness. This was the first tangible instance of medical apartheid I had personally experienced. I felt a small part of what the Jews in Germany might have felt in 1933 when anti-Semitism was becoming established.

The hardest aspect of medical apartheid for me has been the gradual, increasing segregation from my friends and family. This has been gruelling and extremely demanding of my faith in God. It reminds me of the words of Jesus:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)

This is one of those really difficult passages in the Bible. I never thought I would be quoting it now in such context, but it feels so real to me now.

The Source of the Division in Australia

Ultimately, it is the federal government who have washed their hands and abdicated their responsibility to the states and territories. They are the ones who have established the rules and enforced them through the police, their issuing of fines, their silencing of dissent, and by shooting demonstrators in the back with rubber bullets and using tear gas against them.

The propaganda delivered by governments here in Australia has worked really well. It has now generated greater and greater power in central government. They now believe that this power is their own, when in reality, it has only been given to them by the people who have remained silent.

Recently, The Conversation reported that the United Kingdom’s government knowingly engaged in the creation of fear as a psychological tool to generate vaccine take-up. Perhaps the same has happened here in Australia.

A Great Awakening

Let’s learn from the stories of the Holocaust survivors. Any division in society is counterproductive in the end. Whenever we are united, God commands a blessing (Psalm 133). My prayer is that my words here might contribute to a Great Awakening.

We do well to learn from history. If we don’t, we will be condemned by it. Any of us can examine the trends in our world and seek to understand them. We can all stand at the shoreline and declare to the ocean of discrimination and apartheid, “no more, no further!” (Job 38:11).

We can reach out across the divide; we can offer a hand and sit down and talk. We can open a discussion about perspectives we may not agree with. This won’t harm us. It may even enrich us and enlarge us.

Many will recall the moment that Lady Dianna went to visit victims of HIV/AIDS in hospital. She reached out and took their hands, much to the horror of the media. But what she did was to break the taboo that said she would catch the disease and die. She didn’t.

Perhaps you and I can reach out across the divide today. Apartheid can’t long survive if we do.

Image via Religion Unplugged.

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  1. gary 18 November 2021 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Thanks Jim. A very thoughtful article. Each overstep our governments have taken has been because we have allowed them to do so. As you point out, these have been progressed through fear, censorship and coercion.

    • Jim Twelves 21 November 2021 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Thanks Garry, the reason I write is, I believe, my bit in saying ‘enough!’. If we all, who can see, take a stand, I believe the tide will turn.

  2. Beth 18 November 2021 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I am not a religious perso but agree 109per ent with what you have written. Once early last year I realised we were being filled with propoganda, took a step back and opened my eyes to watch in amazement as so many fell under the spell

    • Jim Twelves 21 November 2021 at 8:23 am - Reply

      Beth, thank you. Yes for me I too had a light bulb movement when I realized that,sadly dogma and ideology have replaced truth and honest research.

  3. Leonie Robson 18 November 2021 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Another brilliant source of information and wisdom….
    So blessed to read this article, feel the power of conviction of your words, the strength and truth by which we choose to live our lives.
    These Clarion calls are necessary to recover common sense and a degree of love and respect for others.
    Simply put, love is all

  4. Jim Twelves 21 November 2021 at 8:24 am - Reply

    Leonie, Amen! Bless you!

  5. Vivienne Williams 21 November 2021 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you, you have summed up all my thinking beautifully, I feel that I am not so good at articulating why I believe it is wrong, but just know it is. I didn’t think of myself as a consciousness objector, I just feel it isn’t right and it certainly is not right to force people to take any experimental medication

    • Jim Twelves 23 November 2021 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Vivienne, I love your encouragement and your honesty. For me the writing is my way of collecting and sorting my thoughts, everyone is created differently and it works for me. If this helps to clear the fog a little for you, I feel that I have done my bit, thank you. I think what you say in your last sentence is the core of everything, you just know what is right and you know what is wrong. I really pray that all Australians can us their own right/wrong barometer. Shalom, Jim

  6. Warwick Marsh 23 November 2021 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    This is very personal but powerful story of truth and love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Jim Twelves 23 November 2021 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you, yes ‘truth’, what is ‘truth’? My next project seems to be formulating – scientific method, theory and laws versus ideology, dogma and mass formation. Something along those lines I think. Shalom, Jim

  8. Stan 25 November 2021 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jim,
    I particularly appreciate the call to look back at what is relatively recent history, but which perhaps the majority of Australians have very little understanding. The absolute horror of the atrocities revealed in the Nuremberg trials and the similarities to the unfolding situation in Australia is largely unrecognised.
    I pray for our churches to wake up, and be the light and salt we are called to be.
    Bless you

  9. Jim Twelves 28 November 2021 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Stan, great call, thank you so much, Shalom, Jim

  10. Ann Chow 22 December 2021 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Thanks Jim. I totally agree with your analysis of the current situation.

    This is apartheid cannot be tolerated. No one should lose their jobs over these mandates for not taking an experimental drug with many possible serious side effects which includes heart inflammation, which I known many are suffering after the jab! Or be locked out of society.
    The church needs to stand up and pushback. I think Jesus would do the same!

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