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I am grateful to Dr Stammers and Professor Vacek for their thoughtful commentaries on my paper.1 I will take their points one by one, though in no special order. Given the space available, I will confine myself to their most important remarks.
Dr Stammers accuses me of aligning religion and conscience too closely.2 I agree with him that conscience is broader than religion and that the issue of conscientious objection should be framed so as to handle wholly non-religious ethical objections. I wrote, ‘It is essential for the ethics of cooperation not to be seen as necessarily religious in nature in order for it to have proper application to disputed cases, whether or not brought by religious litigants’.3 A potential draftee might be a pacifist and not a religious adherent; the same in healthcare, where one might oppose abortion or euthanasia, say, on secular grounds. The main purpose of my paper is to show that a viable ‘ethics of cooperation’ can be used in all conscientious objection cases where complicity is at stake, whether the objection is religious or not.
It is of course right, as Dr Stammers observes, that my ‘methodological neutralist’ will likely bridle at the claim that a top-level primary ethical or religious belief, such as that abortion at 12 weeks is immoral, is beyond a reasonableness test. Notoriously, in our secularised and diverse liberal society, a proposition that seems patently clear to one side of a major ethical debate can seem anything but clear to the other side, who will …
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.