Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 3. 14th March 1973
The Long Arm of the Church
The Long Arm of the Church
Major Elliot Major is a Salvation Army welfare officer. He is a fervent supporter of the 'Jesus Revolution' and a long time admirer of Nixon's friend Billy Graham. Major Major believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. He believes that the Lord should be feared and that Satan is a real threat that should be constantly guarded against. Major Major does much of his so-called Welfare work at the Magistrates Court, where he exerts considerable influence in the courtroom. "Salient" interviewed Major Major on his work and philosophy.
"I'm present in court as a marriage guidance counsellor and welfare officer" he said. "I interview fifty to sixty young chaps a week and get all their particulars. I advise them whether or not they should actually have a lawyer, and how to get one". "I'm in contact with the police all the time, and they're in contact with me. The magistrates have often told me: Anything you know about a case, please tell us. The door's always open'. I usually advise the magistrate of the moral situation of the case, which often throws new light on the whole thing".
The Major was asked to give his views on crime and youth. "I believe that young people are sickened with sex and permisiveness. Youth is seeking security and reality". And what did the Major see as reality? "Jesus Christ gives life meaning and reality. Purpose and reality. Jesus is the great central figure of the human race". Major Major believes he has had some success in his work.
"I got 356 Christmas cards from these people last year. Of course some fall by the way, but it's tremendously exciting to see young people getting good jobs and fitting back into society".
Major Major and the Salvation Army have no official position in the legal system. A member of the Probation Service when asked if the Major was part of the service replied, "Hell no!" A former Probation Officer said that the Salvation Army's courtroom work would be better done by the Probation Service.
Mr Wicks, S.M., expressed a different point of view. He admitted that Major Major had no official position in the court but found him "very useful". "Any social worker such as Major Major and the Catholic social workers can approach magistrates. They can and do but legally they shouldn't. Major Major often acts as an unofficial Probation Officer, giving us background about people. The Salvation Army is generally very good; it takes deadbeats and alcoholics under its wing. No, the Major is not a member of the Probation Service".
Mr Wicks went on to quote the bible at some length and said that the Salvation Army helped him to "temper justice with mercy". Was he a Christian himself? He answered that to his knowledge everyone in the court were Christians with the exception of one Jew. Mr Wicks was slightly defensive when he answered this question and asked why it was important.
"I feel that there is no room in the legal system for the intrusion of persons who may allow their religious notions of right and wrong to take precedence over what the law should regard as right and wrong The legal system in its organization demands that everyone should be qualified but the defendant - unless you count relative poverty and ignorance. There should be no reason for any derogation from this principle in the case of those volunteers who obviously seem to be having some effect on the legal system, no matter how well-intentioned they may be".
In a society in which only one in six are regular church-goers, the Major's religious views are those of a small minority. But these religious views permeate all aspects of our way of life and are used to reinforce existing attitudes and social values. In brief they are the views of the Ruling Class, not because its members necessarily believe in them but rather because they have found such views to be a successful method of retaining influence and power through a process of mystification. Examples of this mystification in the courtroom are the swearing of oaths "Before Almighty God" on the bible, the church like layout and atmosphere of the courtroom and the constant presence of such people as Major Major. Workers and students appearing in court should see Major Major as an instrument of bourgeois ruling class oppression rather than the "Father Confessor" which he claims to be.