Conscientious Objection in Spain

July 29, 2019
The most common type of conscientious objection in Spain, and the only one specifically named in the Constitution, is conscientious objection to military service.

Your conscious is your built-in moral compass. You might also think of it as a place where you store your principles and values. So, when people say to let your conscious be your guide when making a decision, they’re saying that this decision will be a reflection of who you really are. Consequently, if you make a decision that goes against your conscious, you’re doing something contrary to everything you believe in. This is the idea that leads to the concept of conscientious objection.

What’s Conscientious Objection?

Conscientious objection is the personal opposition to a legal requirement or obligation. If said legal requirement goes against your own moral code and you choose not to obey, you’re a conscientious objector.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are certain standards you have to meet for your decision to be considered conscientious objection and not just a personal whim. Your action has to be based on genuine beliefs. You can’t just break any law and call yourself a conscientious objector.

A man practicing conscientious objection.

In general, if you’re part of a well-known religious group that doesn’t allow its members to participate in the military, for example, your objection is presumed genuine. The same goes for people who ascribe to certain schools of thought accepted by a social group that’s reasonably integrated into the community. Over the course of history, the most frequent cases of conscientious objection are:

  • Refusing to do military service or refusing to salute the flag.
  • Denying a request to be on a jury, swear an oath, or participate in religious acts.
  • Refusing to work on holidays and/or refusing blood transfusions.
  • Objecting to participating in the practice of abortion or refusing to administer abortive medications.

What Does the Law Say About Conscientious Objection?

The law, as you know, is the set of rules and obligations that citizens are supposed to obey. However, the strength of a law shouldn’t be based on the fear of what will happen if you break it. Instead, a law’s strength should be in the justice or sensibility of the imposed rule. In other words, you should want to follow the law because it makes sense, not because you fear the consequences.

If citizens don’t believe that the laws of the land are just and reasonable, it’ll be hard to keep order. For example, if a legislator foresees that a group of people will reject a particular law because they believe it’s immoral, they’ll have to pursue an alternate course of action.

Governing people isn’t the same as running a machine. Humans are rational and conscious beings, so they can actively participate in pursuing the common good.

A book and a gavel.

Conscientious Objection in the Spanish Constitution

In Spain, the only kind of conscientious objection that’s in the Constitution is for military service. You can read the specific language in Article 30.2. That being side, the Constitutional Tribunal in Spain does recognize that conscientious objection sometimes has a place in other contexts.

As the result of a proposed resource against the abortion law, the Constitutional Tribunal in Spain expressed that it isn’t strictly necessary to regulate conscientious objection for it to be protected in cases other than military service.

The most recent case of conscientious objection was in June of 2015. The Constitutional Tribunal made a decision on June 25th, 2015 about the conscientious objection of administering abortive medication and birth control. Their decision threw out the notion that conscientious objection needs the backing of a specific law in order to be exercised, at least with issues as sensitive as abortion.

In the context of conscientious objection, your conscious is the first principle of moral evaluation of your actions. It isn’t, however, the last principle. This is important because the last principle of moral evaluation is reality.

In other words, just as you should follow your conscious when making decisions, you also have to adjust your beliefs to reality. You should never stop honing your moral and ethical sensibilities. Keep an open dialogue with other people. Read a lot. Try to objectively and openly observe what’s around you. These practices will make you a better and fairer person.

  • Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional 145/2015, de 25 de junio de 2015. http://hj.tribunalconstitucional.es/HJ/es/Resolucion/Show/24527
  • Diego Poole, Conciencia y Derecho.
  • Sentencia de 11 de abril de 1985 Tribunal Constitucional