Mr. MICHAEL CLARK:
I find myself in entire sympathy with the Bill as it stands on this question. Two considerations occur to me that will help us to a rapid decision. In the first place, the number affected as divinity students would be comparatively limited; the loss to the fighting forces would not be very great if we kept all the divinity students at home. I must say that it is strongly present to my mind that in all English-speaking countries the clergy have been held to occupy a special position. The second consideration that arises in that connection is this: That there is no intention, as I understand the Bill, of preventing them from enlisting voluntarily. They have full freedom to go voluntarily, as some of the 'best men in England and Scotland have gone, and have made the supreme sacrifice. But when the matter comes to compelling men to leave the spiritual avocation of the clergy of the community, then I think the sentiment of all English-speaking countries would be in favour of the Bill. From our youth up, we have rightly regarded, and been taught to regard, the clergy as being a special portion of the community dedicated to the most solemn work that can occupy human beings. They baptize us in childhood; they solemnize our marriages;
they console our relatives when we are dying and they say the last rites over our clay. For that reason, as I say, they have always been held in special regard, at least . in the countries that compose our Empire, and I certainly think that to compel them to leave what is the highest avocation that can occupy the minds and energies of men in order to fight would be an act which would not meet with the general approbation of our people.
As to the practical point raised by the Prime Minister in regard to students being used to occupy the position of clergymen who have gone to the front, once a student of divinity has embarked on his course and been given the mark of his calling, it would be a foolish act on the part of this Parliament to use compulsion to make him leave those studies and his high calling for the purpose of serving his country, at the front. For these reasons I endorse very strongly the Bill as it stands.