War's Conscientious Objectors Can't Wait until They Feel a Draft

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

War's Conscientious Objectors Can't Wait until They Feel a Draft


Byline: Burt Constable

If you are a teenager (or the parent of a teenager) morally opposed to war, you can't wait to see if our government reinstates a military draft. You need to lay that conscientious objector legal groundwork now.

"I've actually had a few people call me at an earlier age," notes J.E. McNeil, executive director of the Center on Conscience and War, a Washington-based, not-for-profit association founded in 1940 to defend and extend the rights of conscientious objectors to war and violence. "If there is a draft, it's possible that draft could happen very quickly."

Just as you students resumes that will help you get into the colleges you want, you conscientious objectors need to compile evidence that will help you get out of wars you oppose.

Conscientious objectors still are required to serve in the military as noncombatants without weapons, or as civilians in an alternative service. Some have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their nonviolent service as medics during wars, McNeil adds.

The center's Web site (www.nibsco.org) lets you register as a conscientious objector and posts forms that allow you to document your status. Evidence can include membership in religious or peace organizations, or even photos of you at an anti-war rally, or proof that you shun violent video games.

The center also recommends that you compile letters that support the sincerity of your conviction. Your references don't have to agree with your conclusion, only that you are sincere in your beliefs. At a draft hearing, authors of these letters could be witnesses.

The "easy" cases involve members of religious organizations such as Quakers, Mennonites and other pacifist congregations often known as Anabaptists, McNeil says. Last weekend's conscientious objectors summit at the Church of the Brethren campus in Elgin drew nearly 100 religious leaders, as well as McNeil.

Our federal government's strict requirements for qualifying as a conscientious objector "codify the religious belief of Quakers," McNeil says. …

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