The British MRA members avoiding war service in the United States claimed they were “lay evangelists of an established religion”, a specific exemption within British draft law. That’s how it came to pass that Parliament debated in September and October of 1941 whether MRA recruiters qualified as ” regular ministers of a religious denomination “. Parliament decided they did not.
Some of the most interesting news in London this week emerged from Labor Minister Bevin’s decision not to exempt wholetime workers of the Oxford Group (MRA) from the draft.
“Before the House of Commons voted on this yesterday (Tuesday) 170 members had signed an appeal favoring the exemption of the Oxford Group. But a spirited speech by the writer A P Herbert (who is Oxford University’s member in Parliament) swung them the other way.
“Herbert said the Buchmanites’ methods were fascist-like and their evangelists Nazi
By 1943, the United States had joined the fight, and begun drafting foreign citizen residents from other Allied nations. Twenty-eight Buchmanite foreign nationals, including 25 Britons, who had registered with the Selective Service office in New York City were classified 1A, meaning they would be called for service shortly. True to form, the MRA expected and demanded special treatment. Asking powerful friends to pull strings and exert influence, they were able to force the New York State Conscriptor Director, Brigadier General Amos T. Brown, to reopen and review their cases, a move he called “most despicable”. Two men were exempted and the rest enlisted.
Once they had, reluctantly, joined the Army, the MRA pretended they had always been eager to serve, and that their “enemies” had falsely portrayed them as draft dodgers. I feel it important at this point to make clear my own position. I do not support military drafts, but I likewise cannot support a group of healthy and spoiled men demanding special treatment while allowing others to be conscripted. They did not oppose the draft in general or as a matter of principle; they simply thought themselves above it.
At the end of the war, MRA members once again demanded special treatment. They pulled strings and were granted early release. Not half bad for chaps who skipped the first two thirds of the conflict!