Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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The shadow over Austria’s dissenters


KATHY Gyngell’s alarming TCW Defending Freedom report yesterday of what may happen in Austria to those who refuse the Covid vaccination had grim echoes of a similar repressive regime from the past.   

Not the one that was headed from 1933 to 1945 by Adolf Hitler, the country’s most famous son – although he undoubtedly would have approved of such tactics. Instead, it’s reminiscent of the persecution in England, most onerously in the 16th and 17th centuries, of so-called recusants, those Catholics and Protestant dissenters who refused to attend Anglican church services following the Reformation.  

The Austrian plan is apparently to slap fines of 3,600 euros (around £3,060) on people who twice ignore a summons to be vaccinated. If their refusal puts other persons at ‘serious risk’ or if they continue ignoring the order, they will be fined up to 7,200 euros. Those who still reject the jab despite being fined would face fresh fines every six months. In the video that accompanies Kathy’s report, a young Austrian man, seeking to alert the rest of the world to what is happening, also tells of plans to confine the unvaccinated in quarantine compounds – jails, in other words.

It was a similar situation in 16th century England, when laws against recusants (from the Latin recusare, meaning to refuse, or reject) were brought in after Elizabeth I succeeded her Catholic half-sister Mary in 1588 and re-established the Protestant church.

At first, recusants were fined one shilling for not attending Anglican services, a considerable sum for an unskilled labourer. Later, fines were increased to an astronomical £20 per month, an impossible amount for all but the wealthiest. Many who could not pay were flung into jail.

In 1605, following the failure of the Catholic-led Gunpowder Plot against James I, the laws were again toughened. As well as fines, offenders faced confiscation of two-thirds of their property, or losing it all if they went five miles beyond their homes.

The recusancy laws were effectively ended only in 1791. Many of the generations who suffered throughout those 200 years nonetheless remained adamant in their refusal to comply.  

That, of course, was a decision based on religious conviction. Today, people may reject the jab for many reasons, but they should not be pressured to say why.

Threatening those who refuse vaccination with fines, sanctions or imprisonment is the first step on a dark road. As the people of Austria, whose forebears welcomed Hitler when he injected himself back into their country in the 1938 Anschluss Österreichs would do well to remember.  

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Henry Getley
Henry Getley
Henry Getley is a freelance journalist.

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