Douglas Walsh Case - 1954
In the Yearbook of 1973, on pages 133-134, reference is made to a test case regarding exemption from National Service by ministers of Jehovah's Witnesses. The following is a brief quote from the Yearbook:
In 1953 it was determined that a test case should be prepared to establish whether the Society was a religious organization and whether it had regular ministers. The purpose was to meet the unfair situation whereby the conscription laws providing exemption for regular ministers of religion were being construed in such a manner as to deny Jehovah’s witnesses the benefit of such laws. The man selected had to meet many different qualifications, personal, ministerial, official, narrow age limit, and, of course, he had to be one who had been called upon to register for national service. Douglas Walsh of Dumbarton, Scotland, was eventually chosen, he being both a pioneer and a congregation overseer......The aim was to determine legally whether Jehovah’s witnesses were a religious organization and whether pioneer and congregation overseer Douglas Walsh was a regular minister. In January 1954, a preliminary hearing in Edinburgh determined that Walsh had a relevant case and Lord Strachan ordered it to go to proof. The case was set down for November 23, 1954.........
The whole of the evidence took seven days to present and covered 762 pages of manuscript.......
The judge, in fact, found that Walsh was not a “regular minister” because of his pioneer status, even though the ministry was his vocation.
The case was appealed therefore to the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland, where three judges upheld Lord Strachan’s judgment. The case was then taken to the House of Lords, the court of last appeal. On July 21, 1955, Lord Goddard, Lord Chief Justice of England, rejected the appeal. Jehovah’s witnesses were therefore judged to be a religious denomination that does not have any regular ministers.
The link below is to a .pdf file of the complete transcript and the final judgement by the House Of Lords.