Conscientious Objectors

Latest News / Basic Information


Latest News

Email from Roots Action 3/10/17

President Trump has called for a substantial increase in the number of soldiers in the military. Already, recruiters who "chill” in the high schools and lurk online are having a tough time meeting their quotas. They will become even more aggressive.

The "Every Child Succeeds Act" contains a provision that compels high schools to provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all students to any military recruiter who requests the information. The law also says that parents have the right to remove their kids' names from the lists being sent to the Pentagon, and that schools have the responsibility to tell parents that. A lot of school systems didn't get the message.

Only in Maryland are parents given an easy and directly presented means of opting out. The choice remains theirs, and they are empowered to make it. A right you do not learn about - or find any means to act on - is not a right at all!

Maryland is the only state thus far to pass a law that puts the military recruiter "opt-out" language on the school's mandatory emergency contact form. As a result, large numbers of Marylanders have exercised their right to opt out.

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.


Basic Information

A "conscientious objector" is someone, usually in the military or drafted by the military, whose consience will not allow them to serve in an organization which kills people and teaches violence. Although often brought on by religious teachings, like the Quakers, this moral conscience can also be brought on by life experiences, readings, or experiences encountered after being in the military for awhile.

The US military has a process for applying to be a conscientious objector, but it is little known and never talked about in military training. As a consequence, officers of CO's may not be familiar with the existence of the process, or willing to take an application.

I have seen interviews of veterans (members of Iraq Veterans Against the War: You Are Not Alone) who applied for CO status while in the military and they suggest that you get legal counsel.

Who Is A Conscientious Objector?. This site is by the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors in Washington DC. It has concise details about CO and simple advice for anyone seeking CO status. "The government has the power to make people fight a war. But many young men and women have serious questions about whether it is right to take part in war. That may mean that they are conscientious objectors. They may not know the term, or that there is such a thing as conscientious objection to war... Fortunately, there is a long tradition that is getting stronger as people with all kinds of backgrounds share the conviction that war is wrong. The Constitution gives the government the power to raise an army and people can be drafted to fight. But, there is an established right to conscientious objection dating from before the Constitution which has been recognized during the periods that people were forced into the military.

Alternative Service or Noncombatant Service

"Even though conscientious objectors are not drafted to kill in the Army they still must serve the country.

"The law provides for two different forms of conscientious objector service. The difference depends on whether or not COs are willing to accept service in the Army that does not require them to carry weapons.

"Noncombatants (classified 1-A-O) serve in the Army without using weapons or handling ammunition. They are not trained to use weapons. Noncombatants have usually served in the medical corps.

"COs who are opposed to any military service are classified 1-O. When they are ordered to alternative service they are reclassified 1-W. Alternative service workers (ASWs) do "civilian work contributing to the maintenance of the national health, safety, or interest.

"Many of these alternative service workers find their own jobs for approval by the Selective Service System. In the past, many COs worked in hospitals and in programs operated by religious organizations." (Taken from Who Is A Conscientious Objector?, accessed 6/6/2014).


Conscientious Objector Counseling Project from the Quakers.

Quaker Sues U.S. for Recognition of Conscientious Objector Status from Washington Post, July 30, 2009. ACLU... to order the government to recognize conscientious objectors when men register for the draft... The ACLU said a 1993 law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, requires federal agencies to accommodate people's religious beliefs in such cases.

ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression includes defending right to CO status

ACLU Lawsuit Says Selective Service System Violates Religious Rights Jul 29, 2009 – By Arthur B. Spitzer.

Many, many links to CO articles

CCW's Advice to Youth Facing Registration with Selective Service Mar 1, 2010 – Center on Conscience and War

Conscientious Objection from the Quakers. A history of CO since 1651.

Film Review: "The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight" " The film tells the story of the more than 40,000 conscientious objectors – many of them Amish, Mennonites and Quakers – during World War II."

War. Links and Quotes


Colby Glass, MLIS