New England Yearly Meeting
Peace and Social Concerns Committee
Military Service, Recruitment, and Enlistment
- Military Counselors' Network
- Friends and Milatary Service
- Registration with Selective Service and Conscientious Objection
- Beliefs and Facts about Military Service
- Some Internet resources on military issues
Military Counselors' Network
New England Yearly Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee is working, in conjunction with the
New England Regional Office of the American Friends Service Committee, on a network in New England of people (1) willing and prepared to provide draft and military counseling and/or (2) willing to maintain a file of current information, including referrals to counselors, for individuals who might have questions regarding draft registration, a potential draft, conscientious objection, and issues arising after entering the military. We ask that Friends and Friends Meetings assist in this traditional Quaker effort by:
- Notifying those in your Meeting about this endeavor;
- Seeking volunteers, to provide materials and counseling to those approaching the age of 18;
- Seeking volunteers to provide counter-recruitment services in schools;
- Seeking volunteers, to provide counseling to those in the military;
- Encouraging Friends to become trained draft and military counselors and contacting Robert Dove at AFSC-NERO to learn about future training sessions,
- Paying expenses of those who attend such sessions from your Meeting or community; and
- Considering making an extra contribution to
AFSC-NERO to help pay the costs of materials and other expenses of this special project.
Individuals who wish to participate in any way should notify
Robert Dove at
AFSC-NERO, 2161 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140; 617-661-6130;
Anyone who would like to talk to a draft or military counselor should also contact Robert Dove at AFSC-NERO, who will maintain the list of contact persons.
Friends and military service
All Friends are encouraged to educate themselves about current policies and practices related to the military draft registration, recruitment, and service.
Students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers: If military recruiters come to your school, ask the administration to schedule equal time for people to present alternative views. School administrators are legally required to do so.
Parents: Under current legislation, schools are required to send information on students to military recruiters unless a parent (or student 18 or over), in writing, specifically forbids them to do so.
Friends are also encouraged to consider how and to what degree any military service or cooperation with it may or may not be in harmony with their individual leadings concerning the traditional Friends Peace Testimony.
Registration with Selective Service and Conscientious Objection
Many people assume that because they are a member of a certain religion they would automatically qualify as conscientious objectors were there military conscription in the USA. Others assume that because they are not formally connected to certain religions they could not qualify as conscientious objectors Many people assume that because they do not believe that they could be totally nonviolent under all circumstances they cannot consider themselves to be pacifists.
None of the above are true.
First, the current definition of a conscientious objector requires one to object to participation in all wars and includes those whose belief is based on a religious, moral, or ethical belief system -- not, as was once the case, only those who are members of designated "peace churches". However, were a draft to be established at this time, we do not know for sure what definition or requirements must be set for qualification for conscientious objector status. So you must establish clearly what you believe and what you must do to act in accordance with your beliefs.
Second, few if any people could remain nonviolent under all circumstances, and we can never foretell how we might act until we experience something. We can only discern what we do believe and what we would hope to do and then work constantly to act and react nonviolently.
However, always remember, you cannot register as a conscientious objector. Any such determination would be made by a local draft board, or whatever authority were to be created were there to be a draft, at the time you were called. Should you register with Selective Service at this time, the card you send in would
not be kept by them; your data would be entered into their system without any such note.
So, for starters, if you think you might be a conscientious objector, and you do register, write "I am a conscientious objector to war" on the card, sign it, preferably have it notarized, and make two copies. Mail the original Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested to Selective Service. Mail one copy, the same way, to a parent at their work place, minister, or other person you trust. Retain the second copy. Retain the receipts, when you get them, with the file you should be building and maintaining.
Young Friends who are approaching the age of eligibility for military service are particularly encouraged to explore their feelings on issues related to military service. They might have discussions with their families, older Friends, and others concerning nonviolence, living nonviolently, and military service. They might also study available information and talk with military counselors
If you think you may be a pacifist to some degree and, further, a conscientious objector to war (and, at least to some degree, to military service), you should:
- Think about it. And write down your answers to yourself and keep them in your file.. Are you opposed to ALL war? Were you to have to defend your belief, you would undoubtedly be asked under what circumstances would you be willing to fight - to fight Hitler? To defend your own home, in case of invasion? In truth, you really can't tell what you might decide in a future situation, but you should at least know what you would hope to do, given your beliefs.
To what degrees are you an objector? Is your objection to fighting and possibly killing others; to being trained to kill and expected to do so on command? If you did not have to do that, would you be willing to provide any backup services, such as equipment maintenance, office work, medical care? Would you be willing to do "alternative service" that might free someone else to be in the military? Are you willing to pay taxes that support the military? Would you vote for someone who supported or promoted war?
- Check your beliefs with others whom you trust and whom you believe will be honest with you and ask hard questions to probe their depth and sincerity. Clearness committees, of your peers and/or from a Friends Meeting, would be one good source.
- Document your beliefs.
- If you had a clearness committee, ask the Friends Meeting for a Minute recognizing your conscientious objection to war. If you met with others, ask them to write some statement as to your beliefs and their sincerity.
- Work to reconstruct what led you to your beliefs. Write them down as well and as completely as you can. "My (relative, teacher, minister, friend, leader of whatever group, etc) said once .... and it made me think ...." I (read, heard about, saw something (list specifically) and it made me think...". Include events that had an impact on you.
- Ask family, friends, teachers, etc. to write statements including anything they have heard you say or observed about you that they think expressed your beliefs, including the beginnings of them and their growth.
- Record books and articles you have read and movies and programs that you have seen that have affected your beliefs. Include quotations and comments on biographies.
- Write down how your beliefs have affected and do affect your daily life, including specific examples of times when you have acted as a pacifist. Some ways may be:
- Times when you have or have tried to use talk and/or walk away rather than get into a physical fight.
- Ways in which you have avoided and/or try to avoid conflict (including verbal conflict -- listening and discussion rather than name-calling).
- Ways and/or times when you have tried to stop conflict between others.
- Sights and sounds etc. that disturbed and continue to disturb you.-- and the same that you find comfortable and right.
- Ways that you live -- kinds of food you may avoid, other environmental concerns; concerns for others; activities you are in to help others.
American Friends Service Committee - New England Regional Office, to connect with a counselor;
The Peace Abbey, Two Main Street, Sherborn, MA 01770, to sign the National Registry of Conscientious Objection;
- Keep all your documents together in one secure place. Make copies and keep them in another place - in your family's safe deposit box, a file at a parent's work place or your church.
The Peace Abbey is one place that will maintain files of individual portfolios of CO documentation for safekeeping.
Remember, whether or not to register with Selective Service is your decision. Whether or not you might qualify as a conscientious objector and what the formal outcome of any determination would be cannot be known unless and until there is a draft. However, were you ever to be called up to defend a claim of conscientious objection before a draft board, you would not have time to prepare all the necessary documentation and you might be too rushed and disturbed to think clearly enough to put together a good claim, so you should do it now. Just going through this process will help you to clarify your stand.
Beliefs and Facts about Military Service
Some commonly held beliefs (CHB's) and facts about military service and conscientious objection:
- CHB: Selective Service registration is for men only.
- Fact: True. Women who have felt this to be discriminatory have registered as a way of voicing their feeling and also as a way to show their solidarity with men, whether or not they are conscientious objectors.
- CHB: To register with Selective Service is to register for the draft.
- Fact: There is now no draft. Since the end of the Vietnam War, the military has been sufficiently filled with enlistees. Registration with Selective Service was reinstated by Jimmy Carter in 1980, the first time there has been any such thing in the USA except in times of war, and there have been a number of attempts since then by the government to end Selective Service (and the money used to maintain it).
- CHB: A male resident of the USA must register with Selective Service by or on his 18th birthday. Those who do not are severely punished by law.
- Fact: A male is required by current law to register with Selective Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. A very small number of vocal
non-registrants were prosecuted for non-registration shortly after its reinstatement, but none have been in recent years. Were a man between 18 and 26 (the current parameters for being required to register) to be threatened with prosecution, he could register at that time, and such late registration has not, to date, brought any reprisals. Most men who register do so because of what are known as the "Solomon Amendments", which deny benefits such as federal financial aid for education and eligibility for federal jobs to non-registrants. Again, a man can register at any time up to his 26th birthday if he feels a need for such benefits. When considering whether or not you are a conscientious objector and what your limits might be to acting in accordance with this belief, consider these aspects:
- There are alternate funds available for financial aid for education, including those in the
Fund for Education and Training (FEAT), administered by the Center On Conscience and War (formerly the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objection, NISBCO).
- Some universities and other institutions of higher education do not require that you are eligible for federal funds to provide you with financial aid.
- You may want to consider what jobs with what kinds of organizations and companies you would be willing to take in the future to act in consistency with your beliefs.
- CHB: You can register as a Conscientious Objector.
- Fact: To register with Selective Service, you just complete a postcard and drop it in the mail. On receipt, it is believed that Selective Service enters the info into their system and discards the postcard. If you believe that you are, or may be, a conscientious objector when you register, write on the card that you are a conscientious objector, have it notarized, make a copy, mail the original to Selective Service Registered Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and keep the copy and the receipt, when returned to you. It is doubtful that your remarks will be entered, but you will have a record of having attempted to make your beliefs known. Keep the copy and receipt in a safe place; you may want to keep them in a special portfolio of information and documentation related to your feelings on pacifism, nonviolence, war, and/or military service.
- CHB: You don't need to think about whether or not you might be a Conscientious Objector until you are almost 18.
- Fact: It is never too early to consider your beliefs related to serving in the military and to document your thoughts as you grow older. Should a draft be reinstated and should you be called, you will have only a few days to report. It is at this time that you would have to prove that you are a conscientious objector. Hence, the need to start documenting your beliefs and how you came to them as soon and as completely as possible.
- CHB: If you are a Friend, you will automatically be recognized as a conscientious objector.
- Fact: No matter what your religion, you would have to prove to your draft board (should a draft be reinstated and you were called to report) that you were a conscientious objector. It might be easier if you were a member of one of the "historic peace churches", but it has always been far from automatic. The definition currently used by the military of a conscientious objector is "a person who objects to participation in all forms of war, and whose belief is based on a religious, moral, or ethical belief system". This is an important thing to remember when talking to your
non-Quaker peers who may not think they would be able to obtain conscientious objector status because they are from other churches or have no connection to any religious organization. It is also important that to considered a conscientious objector, you must be opposed to all forms of way, not just a specific war.
- CHB: Once you enter the military, you can never be granted conscientious objector status.
- Fact: A person's beliefs can and do change throughout life. They can be affected by experiences, conversations, studies, and all the things that we do and see and think along the way. A person who is drafted or who enlists in the military can change at any time into a conscientious objector, and can also apply for and obtain conscientious objector status at any time. As soon as a person in the military, or one who has enlisted but not yet reported for duty, thinks he might be a conscientious objector, he should contact a counselor who can advise him of his options and possible next steps, help him think through his beliefs, and help him to find legal assistance if needed.
- CHB: You can obtain all the information that you need directly from offices, printed materials, and representatives of the armed services.
- Fact: Military recruiters are salespeople, who are rewarded for the number of recruits they sign up. Their printed materials are advertisements. You should believe them to the same degree that you would believe the proverbial traveling salesman. A recruiter really cannot promise you anything, and there are loopholes in many of the promises officially given to you in writing. Before you sign up, at least review materials on alternative Web sites and talk with a counselor. Also, read the military enlistment agreement carefully. Fine print at the bottom may give the military the right to change anything. You may well not get what a recruiter has promised and you cannot sue the military.
A few facts about the military (from CCCO):
- Less than one-third of those who sign up for ROTC actually receive scholarships, and scholarships are mostly given for engineering and scientific studies. Colleges may reduce their financial aid by the amount received from ROTC, resulting in no actual gain for students.
- Montgomery G.I. Bill:
- Those who enlist in this must pay a non-refundable deposit. Less that one-half of the 75% of those who get out of the service actually eligible for its benefits get any money. The first 10 years of the program showed a profit of $720 million from the deposits, and as of 1996 it was still making profits. Actual amounts given are small, and, as in ROTC, colleges may reduce your financial aid by any amount received from the Montgomery G.I. Bill.
- Job training:
- Average job training for military enlistees is 1.7 months, and specific training may be limited. For example, promised training as an "airplane mechanic" may be just changing the oil in an airplane engine. Only 12% of male and 6% of female veterans say they are working at jobs that in any way use skills they learned in the military.
- Over 65% of army families are on food stamps or other public assistance. Current enlistment has been referred to as a "poverty draft" of people who had no other plans that looked promising after high school, but the Veterans Administration says that one-third of homeless people are veterans.
- Universal Code of Military Justice:
- It ensures standard operating procedures for the military, but at the cost of much of the Bill of Rights. The military needs people who will do exactly what they are told without question, and trains people for that. There are no appeals from decisions in military trials.
Some Internet resources on military issues
- Central Committee for Conscientious Objection (CCCO). You can get a lot of information directly from the website and also order printed materials on topics including:
- the Delayed Enlistment Program
- Draft Registration
- "Things to Think About Before You Enlist", including alternatives to some of the reasons for which you might consider enlisting
- Center on Conscience and War (formerly National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objection, NISBCO). Another source of information on topics including:
- Military Service, Alternative Social Service, and Conscientious Objection in the Americas
- Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Conscience and Religion
- Basic Draft Information
- Advice to Conscientious Objectors Facing Draft Registration
- Advice to Those Considering Enlistment
- Some People Don't Register for the Draft ... Should I?
- Letters of Support for Conscientious Objector Claims
- What Do I Believe About War?
- Questions for the Conscientious Objector
- Health Care Professionals and the Draft
- other resources, many free (donations gratefully accepted) or low-cost
- Fund for Education and Training (FEAT) -- provides financial aid for non-registrants
- Jewish Peace Fellowship. One of its publications is "Wrestling With Your Conscience: A Guide for Jewish Draft Registrants and Conscientious Objectors", which includes the latest SSS regulations and is also useful for non-Jews.
- Muslim Peace Fellowship: Muslims envisioning a world of peace, security & nonviolence. Resources include "6 Ways You Can Become a Muslim Peacebuilder", "Peace is the basic spirit of Islam", and "A Muslim Spiritual Response to 9/11".
- The Peace & Justice Support Network represents the peace witness of Mennonite Church USA, combining the work of the Mennonite Church's Peace & Justice Committee and the General Conference Mennonite Church's Peace and Justice Resources (Commission on Home Ministries).
- Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (San Diego, CA). Information includes the court ruling they recently obtained concerning equal access to schools for non-military counselors. COMD publishes a newsletter; the November-December 2001 issue contained a one-page sheet on "What you can do" in response to a possible draft.
- War Resisters' League. As one of "Some things you can do to oppose the war in Afghanistan", they offer a printable flyer "Challenging Military Myths & Promoting Nonviolent Solutions". They also provide other downloadable informational flyers.
- War Resisters' International. Web site and list-serve informs about conscientious objectors world-wide, including The Right to Refuse to Kill Project.
- Background on Gulf War resisters over the last decade, compiled by one of the first active-duty U.S. Marines to refuse orders to deploy to the Gulf. Includes archives of personal statements by military refuseniks and CO's.
- GI Rights Hotline (800-FYI-95GI or 800-394-9544), providing information and assistance to those already in the military
- Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO)
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), with links to its youth and militarism information and publications
- AFSC New England Regional Office: AFSC-NERO, 2161 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140; 617-661-6130; email@example.com
- The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), an interfaith peace organization, with links to other sites
- The Peace Abbey, Two Main Street, Sherborn, MA 01770; 508-650-3659. Maintains the National Registry of Conscientious Objection
- Official Selective Service System information on conscientious objection, under current stand-by plans (subject to change).
- Official Selective Service System information on alternative service for recognized conscientious objection, under current stand-by plans (subject to change).
- Official Selective Service System information on the "Health Care Personnel Delivery System". The SSS is prepared to draft 62 categories of medical specialists up to 55 years old, from nurses
and surgeons to dieticians, opticians, and animal care technicians up to 55 years old.
- Questions and answers on the "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" from the Center on Conscience and War.
- History and personal testimony from Mennonite (and other) resistance to draft registration, 1980-1985.
- Information for those considering not paying all or part of their federal taxes because of their conscientious objection to paying for war.