Should the king have the right to conscientious objection?

This week we have the partnership of Guillermo Velasco Anaya, 2nd year student of the double Degree in Philosophy and Law. How can we talk about the unity and permanence of a State when the actions of its highest representative are dissociated from its own system of values?

I consider that one of the most topical and weighty questions facing the monarchical institution in Spain today -and also in other nations that contemplate this figure- is whetheror not the person of the king should have the right to object to the performance of a due act. We live in times of parliamentary monarchies, where, unlike absolute or constitutional monarchies, the king has no effective power or decision-making capacity that produces legal effects in the constitutional order. In Spain we face a problem of an anachronistic nature, because in addition to other functions that are preserved by the weight of historical tradition, it corresponds to the monarch the sanction and promulgation of the laws issued by the parliament. This problem lies in the fact that the king must carry out this sanction and promulgation despite not having any legislative power or initiative subject , so it is a function that has lost its purpose. As a result of this status there have been important constitutional crises, such as the one that occurred in Belgium in 1990 due to the civil service examination of King Baudouin to sign the law decriminalizing abortion. Since the right of the king to conscientious objection was not provided for in Belgian law, he had to resort to a temporary disqualification, during which time the corresponding formalities of the law were carried out.

Problems such as this lead to the discussion of whether or not the king should have the right to conscientious objection, recognized in article 30.2 of the Constitution, which consists of the freedom of a subject to object to the fulfillment of a legal duty because it is contrary to his personal convictions. In my opinion, the person of the monarch should be able to object to performing due acts if they are not in accordance with his principles. To prevent this internship from being abused, it should be subject to the same requirements under which a citizen can object, since conscientious objection is not a subjective privilege that makes it possible to violate the rules of the legal system arbitrarily. On the contrary, it is a basic right whose purpose is to prevent people from being forced to act against the most valuable thing they have: their conscience. Similarly, it is important to emphasize that conscientious objection has been built as a right whose exercise has a collective background, since only those that are linked to a common belief or conviction, shared by a certain group of people, are recognized as valid causes of objection (for example, the objection of pacifists to be enlisted in the army or that of some doctors to perform an abortion or euthanasia).

It cannot be said that a State is democratic and governed by the rule of law if it does not include in its legal system the recognition of the right of citizens to conscientious objection. I think that this right is transferable to the king, since, with the rationalization of the monarchy, the functions he nominally holds have been emptied of the content they historically had, so it would not be a constitutional crisis for the king to object to perform a due act if it is contrary to his personal convictions, because in the internship he has no power of decision and his action has a more formal and symbolic than effective nature. Likewise, the function of being a symbol of unity and permanence of the State is not undermined if the king is allowed to excuse himself from any of his concrete obligations because they are incompatible with what his conscience dictates. In fact, exactly the opposite is true, for how can one speak of the unity and permanence of a State when the actions of its highest representative are dissociated from its own value system?

An argument that is often made is that the king should be neutral, since his function is to represent and be a symbol of the whole nation, so that objecting to the performance of an act due to him would mean expressing his biased position with respect to a certain subject. However, I maintain that there are certain issues of such importance that, in spite of having today a strong ideological and political charge, they transcend these planes; this implies that the decision taken in relation to one of them does not intrinsically have a determined orientation in the political spectrum, no matter how much externally one may try to give it one. To illuminate this by way of an example, we can think again of the topic that caused the constitutional crisis in Belgium to which I referred earlier: abortion. It is a controversial topic that as such is not linked to a particular political orientation, but, on the internship, its defense is often associated with the left; therefore, the king would be attributed to be "right-wing" if he opposes signing a law decriminalizing it. I think this is wrong, because the position taken on such a sensitive topic does not have to be decisive to determine the political party or sector for which one feels sympathy. And it is precisely these issues that transcend the political level (since they are of such importance that they are directly linked to the conscience of a person and not to his or her political membership ) that coincide with those on which a citizen can invoke the right to conscientious objection, so there would not be a problem in this sense; that is, political neutrality would not be lost.

From what has been said so far, I conclude that the king should have the right to conscientious objection, since in this way he is recognized as equal on the ontological level with respect to citizens, and forcing him to act against his conscience would be an attack on the dignity that corresponds to him as a person.

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