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.


Selective Service System.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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."

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
| Conchie: What My Father Didn't Do During the War is published by Lion Books and priced PS9.99
He was the son of a soldier, and while Bunting was in Windsor prison as a conchie, was severely wounded on the front.
For radio DJ and TV presenter Fearne Cotton, realising that a family ancestor was a conchie in the south Wales valleys is something she is just coming to terms with.
The 800 "Conchies" who defied the draft in Wales are the subject of the autumn CACEC lecture.
at was a never know I wouldn't deny the 16,000-odd "Conchies" who refused to bear arms were brave men and women, invariably ostracised, abused, often attacked and usually jailed for their beliefs.
IAN Hislop (left) investigates the roles played (or, rather, not played) by the "conchies" - conscientious objectors - during World War I.
(Rose regrets that Northern Ireland was too large a subject to include in this discussion, and unfortunately inflates the number of British civilians killed to 400,000.) The distrust of conscientious objectors as un-British--and less than men--and the ways in which many firms and local authorities summarily dismissed or refused to employ 'conchies', these examples, and others, destabilise any cosy notion of a people at one in adversity, of a settled national identity that was likely to cohere beyond the coming of peace.
The 'conchies' came from all sorts of backgrounds and were sustained by their religious and socialist beliefs.
The campaign by the Alternative World War One Commemoration Committee is calling for a plaque to be mounted in Glasgow, which was home to the majority of Scotland's 236 "conchies".
Since a number of conscientious objectors were sent to work down the mines as an alternative to military service, there was sometimes an assumption that all Bevin boys were "Conchies", and, although the right to conscientiously object to killing was recognised in conscription legislation, old attitudes of discrimination still prevailed among some members of the general public, with resentment by association towards Bevin boys.