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 ?
The illegitimate use of "conscientious objection" is punishable by fines for failure to provide care or services; constitutes misuse of public resources; and carries civil, administrative and ethical (3) responsibilities and consequences.
in the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 1763 on the right of conscientious objection in lawful medical care of 7 October 2010.
The focus of this article is to stake out the qualified position that yes, in almost all cases, homeschooling is a conscientious objection. Notwithstanding the discussion of the multitude of conscientious objector definitions above, when fleshing out the argument that homeschooling is an act of conscientious objection to conventional public education, the definition of conscientious objectors as purely connected to military conscription will be used.
Distinguishing conscientious objection from false motivations, such as cowardice or dislike, as well as the possibility that some acts of conscience could be morally wrong, is difficult (Benjamin, 2004).
These chapters are useful not only for understanding the discussions about conscientious objection, but also about the wider discourses of the war and military service.
Catholic bishops, in a declaration rooted in Augustine's theology, re-emphasized in 2007 that "our nation must also make provisions for those who in conscience exercise their right to conscientious objection or selective conscientious objection" (emphasis added).
Lynch opposes a blanket prohibition on conscientious objection. Among her reasons are that patients are not well served by physicians who have serious moral qualms about services that the patients need, and that medical professionalism does not require physicians to take all comers or to accede to all requests--even legitimate ones.
The World Council of Churches Central Committee cited a recent WCC study showing "that in many places churches face challenges of conscientious objection", which allows those whose conscience prohibits them from military service to engage in alternate means of service.
At the University of Notre Dame's 2009 commencement, President Obama proposed to "honor [he conscience of [hose who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics as well as respect for [he equality of women." (1) This paper rakes up the President's suggestion by addressing conscientious objection in medicine.