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Conscientious Objection to Military Service

"We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God’s peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world. Led by the Holy Spirit, we follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing nonresistance, even in the face of violence and warfare." 

Article 22 of Confession of Faith In a Mennonite Perspective

           The world is in turmoil and there seem to be so many wars and violence.  The chances that the USA will be drawn into another active war are high.  And if that happens the chances are high that they will reinstate the Selective Service Military Draft. 

            As a member in a Mennonite congregation, you have been taught that reconciliation and peace are central to Jesus Christ's gospel. What you hear from government leaders, social media, teachers, and peers may be quite different.

            As you gain in life experience, you will decide for yourself whether following Jesus requires a commitment to non-violence.  Do Jesus' disciples participate in war?  If not, why not?  And if there is a war, and there is a draft, and I am opposed to military service, what are my options?

            In the USA, all males are required to register with the Selective Service which records your name name and address (Kansas law dictates that your registration information be sent to Selective Service as soon as you apply for a driver's license - KS Statute 8-235e). The government uses this information to identify males fit for military service, in the case of a national draft or mass military subscription.  As of right now females are not required to register with Selective Service (but that will likely change).

            The Selective Service registration form does not allow the registrant to specify that they are a conscientious objector (CO).  Furthermore, choosing not to register carries the threat of stiff fines and jail time, the denial of federal financial aid for higher education, and disqualification from employment with government organizations.  In short, there is no way to apply for or obtain CO status prior to enlistment/conscription with the armed forces.

            In the event of a national draft, a CO receives notice that they are to join the military.  At this point they must apply for a suspension or deferment of service while

attempting to assert their status as a CO.  At this point, the individual will appear in front of the local draft board and must present evidence explaining why they should receive an exemption from military service.  If the draft is to be reinstated, it is quite possible that CO's will have two weeks or less from the time they are drafted to document their position and apply for CO status.  This is why it is very important to begin to document your beliefs now!

 

            Since there is no way to receive a guarantee of CO status prior to being drafted, the Selective Service and several Peace Churches suggest some steps to help you prepare for the eventuality of a draft:

 

  • Send in a paper copy of your Registration Card.  Write somewhere on the face of the card, within the lines or above your signature some version of "I am a conscientious objector, opposed to my participation in war in any form because of my ethical, moral or religious beliefs."  Make a copies of the card for your records,  and for your pastor.  Then send it in and wait ... for the next steps please read the linked paper entitled "Advice to Youth Facing Registration with the Selective Service."

 

 

  • Make record of any actions you have taken which support your commitment to peace.  Make copies for your record and for your pastor.

 

  • Gather reference letters from people who know you well, and are familiar with the position you are taking, and believe your sincerity (see "How to Create a CO File" included in this packet).  Make copies for your record and for your pastor.

 

Continue to add things to your CO file, and to share them with your pastor.  If you are drafted, take your CO file with you to present to the draft board.  Meanwhile remember that the best witness to Jesus and his way of peace is a disciple who knows Jesus well and follows him in daily life.  As he said, "My sheep know my voice."

 

      What are the chances that the Draft will be reinstated?  We simply do not know.  Only one thing is certain: If there is a draft, CO's who have completed a CO file will be in a better position than those who have not.

 

Remember! There is no need to be afraid of the Draft.  God is faithful to walk with you and guide you in all things. Look to your parents, your pastor, and our congregation for support and encouragement.  May the Peace of God be with you as you explore your faith and find God's guidance.

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