Conscientious Objector

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Conscientious Objector

A person who, because of principles of religious training and moral belief, is opposed to all war regardless of its cause.

A conscientious objector may be released from the obligation to serve in the armed forces or to participate in selective service registration. A conscientious objector must oppose war in any form, and not just a particular war, in order to avoid military service. He does not have to be a member of a religious congregation that forbids participation in war. Under the Military Selective Service Act (50 App. U.S.C.A. § 451 et seq. [1967]), a registrant needs only a conscientious scruple against war in all forms to obtain conscientious objector status. A conscientious scruple against war is an objection to war based on moral beliefs. A conviction that war is wrong, arrived at solely on intellectual and rational grounds, does not entitle one to exemption as a conscientious objector.

Under prior draft laws, conscientious objectors were divided into two classes. One class was composed of those who were opposed to all military service, regardless of whether it was combatant or noncombatant. This class was required to serve in civilian work that contributed to the national welfare, such as the Red Cross, but was exempt from military service. The other class was opposed to only combatant military service. These conscientious objectors were drafted into the Armed Services for noncombatant duty, such as in the medical corps.

Today there is no draft law; however, males are required to register for the Selective Service at the age of eighteen. Registrants can obtain a discharge, or a release, from the armed services on the ground of conscientious objection. A person who seeks a discharge on this basis must satisfy certain tests established by the federal courts. He must oppose all forms of war and object to any type of service in the armed forces. Total Pacifism, however, is not required. Willingness to use force in Self-Defense to protect oneself and family does not defeat a claim of opposition to all war. Enlistment in the military service is also not inconsistent with a claim of conscientious objection.

The objection must be founded on deeply held moral, ethical, and religious convictions about right or wrong. Although this limits discharges to those persons who object to war for essentially religious reasons, which are individually held beliefs, it does not restrict discharges to only those who participate in organized religion. The test of a religious belief is not measured by traditional religious concepts but is based upon whether the belief is sincere and has an effect on the life of the nonconforming believer that is comparable with or parallel to traditional religious beliefs held by persons who believe in God. The objective or actual truth of the beliefs is not the standard used to measure the sincerity of the individual in his beliefs; the test is completely subjective, determined by what the individual actually believes. A military board's skepticism as to the sincerity of an objector's belief is not enough to deny a discharge; some objective evidence is required.

Conscientious objectors can be ordered to report for civilian duty in lieu of military service.

Cross-references

Selective Service System.

conscientious objector

n. a person who refuses to serve in the military due to religious or strong philosophical views against war or killing. Refusing to answer a draft call is a federal felony, but when a person's religious beliefs are long-standing and consistent (as with the Quakers) then the objection to service is excused. Conscientious objectors may be required to perform some non-violent work like driving an ambulance. During the Vietnam War some conscientious objectors fled to Canada to avoid any service. However, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused induction during the Vietnam War (1967) on the basis of his Black Muslim religious beliefs against war and other philosophical reasons, but was charged with draft evasion anyway. Ali was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court overturned Ali's conviction. Those who do not agree with these objectors sometimes call them "draft dodgers."

References in periodicals archive ?
Soon a system was introduced in which imprisoned conscientious objectors had the chance to swap prison for work centres, where they would be employed doing work not directly related to the war, though absolutists remained in prison.
In developing our study, we sought to describe, rather than to judge, the diversity of providers who self-identify as conscientious objectors with an aim toward identifying the behaviors of providers who, under the guise of conscientious objection, act as obstructors rather than facilitators of care.
Naturalized Canadians born in enemy countries who had settled in Canada after 1902 lost their right to vote, and conscientious objectors were also disenfranchised.
We all think we know about it but we break some myths, such as the fact that actually no-one was shot for being a conscientious objector, rather than a deserter.
So why are these Conscientious Objectors with the jitterbug complex allowed to go out, drink and publicly flaunt their draft status in front of hundreds of people who have Dear Ones in the uniform of these United States," he thundered.
Many of the first officially recognized conscientious objectors to military conscription came from the early "peace churches" (Quaker, Mennonite, Brethren).
Records kept by the Southern Baptist Church, many of whose members were conscientious objectors, indicate that about 10,000 American men received IV-E status, to be assigned civilian work, and an estimated 75,000 others were classified as I-A-O, to be assigned noncombatant duty in the military.
I recognise that the status of the Conscientious Objectors is controversial, especially for families who lost relatives in the war, and I'm not entirely sure what is the most appropriate way of doing it.
Philip Austin, of the Northern Friends Peace Board, said conscientious objectors in the First World War "broke important ground in creating the now widely (though, sadly, not universally) recognised right to refuse to kill.
He was also joined by activists from New Profile and Yesh Gvul, along with other young conscientious objectors.