How to Become a Conscientious Objector

If you claimed conscientious objector status, would a draft board believe you? Curt Torell of Quaker House has some tips for making sure they do.

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Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

10 thoughts on “How to Become a Conscientious Objector

  1. My cousin Dean Holland founded Quaker House at 19 years of age. He died in a car accident soon after. He wasn’t Quaker. He was a solider who had volunteered during the Vietnam war and soon realized he couldn’t serve. I became a Quaker in 1995 – Brooklyn meeting. Thank you for Quaker speak. We need to be more visible in the world as Friends.

  2. Friends should be aware the current Selective service SS) law requires the appellant to make a proof of crystallization of his or her belief regarding war and military service; to identify the point in time when ones belief regarding war crystallized . Membership in a historical Peace Church such as Quaker, Brethren and Mennonite(These three are specifically identified in the law as a substitute for crystallization. The documentation should identify the individual as a member of one of the three faiths. Since there is no mention of associate member or any other subset of Member in the law . Any mention of deferment desires at registration will be ignored Registration is only to provide SS with the registrant’s current legal address and when ever that address changes while the registrant is is of draft age the registrant must register again.

    JW Spear, Sr. past SS Bord member of 9 years and member of Valley Friends Meeting.

  3. This is a good and useful piece and helpful. My concern is that is perpetuates the misconception that our testimony of peace arises in the belief that “there is that of God in all people.” Curt even says that this is what Fox was saying in his testimony. It is not.

    Our call to peace and to live in a way that does away with the occasion of all war arises in our experience of the Divine. “The Spirit of Christ, by which we are guided is not changeable.” To base our peace testimony in anything less than the direct Experience of God is to dilute it to meaningless.

  4. As a Viet Nam veteran and member of VVAW and Veterans for Peace, my problem with being a Quaker is knowing the FCNL started in 1942, during a justifiable war due to the holocaust in Europe. How popular is my stance as a Quaker but not C.O.?

  5. Friends seek to live a life with which they answer to that of God in everyone. Arguably guns will not serve the purpose. And that is one root of the peace testimony. To believe in that of God… may be a creed or a theology. It may not quite be consequential enough for a testimony.

  6. I am currently appealing my Selective Service classification. During the US war with Vietnam, I was a conscientious objector but was classified as unfit to serve. I have been appealing this for 10 years. Richard Flahavan, at Intergovernmental Affairs, keeps obstructing the appeal, claiming there is no appeal process.

  7. I read CO literally, as moral philosophy and legal, logical language: knowing right from wrong, knowing consent from objection. Deferment by religious denomination is another subject. I am not a member of the Society of Friends, i.e., Quakers.
    I do believe war may be a justified resort to conflict resolution. I also believe that, presently and for too long, the US budget has been lopsided, favoring so called defense over the general Welfare, the judiciary, et alia, referring to the US Constitution preamble.

  8. I was about to start 7th grade when Jimmy Carter reactivated draft registration in 1980. I was advised then by people who had been draft counselors just a few years before to prepare two identical portfolios. In those, I was to put copies of every letter and essay I wrote that expressed my views on war. I was advised to clip newspaper and magazine articles on war or militarism, including the dates and sources, and attach a paragraph or two giving my views and reflections on the content. When I attended rallies or marches, write a couple of paragraphs with reflections on my experiences. The idea was so that if the draft was reactivated, I could have something on hand right away that I could take in; the second version was a back-up, as draft boards used to have a habit of “misplacing” the documents.

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