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Conscientious Objection

Are you a Conscientious Objector to War?

Have you received notices from the Selective Service System informing you that you are required to register for the draft at age 18 so why not join up and get your college education paid for? You may have already registered or be in the military.

What they don­t tell you is that you have a constitutional right to be a Conscientious Objector (CO).

You even have the right to become a CO after you have joined the military.

CO status is based on the right to exercise your religion or conscience under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

Registering as a CO serves two functions:

  1. It can keep you from being drafted if/when the draft is reinstated.
  2. It will send a message to the authorities that many loyal U. S. citizens oppose war.

In fact, many heroic, world-renowned U.S. citizens have been Conscientious Objectors to war including Henry David Thoreau, Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, and most all Mennonites, Quakers, Amish, as well as many who began to fight in the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.

A Conscientious Objector is one who is a conscientious objector to war in any form on the basis of religious training and belief or a parallel belief that plays the same role in one­s life that religion does in the life of a religious person. (This is the legal definition.)

There are two CO classifications:

  • 1-O is the refusal to serve in the military in any capacity. If there is a draft, you will be required to do alternative service (in a hospital, forestry camp, etc.) without Government pay.
  • 1-A-O is the willingness to serve in the military only in a non-combatant capacity.

So once you­ve thought out which of these categories most accurately describes you, begin writing your letter. Your letter should contain the following:

  1. A statement that you are a Conscientious Objector.
  2. Whether you are applying for 1-O or a 1-A-O status.

Make at least four copies of the letter, each individually signed and dated.

  1. Send one to: Selective Service System P. O. Box 94638 Palatine, IL 60094-4638
  2. Send one to yourself in case you need to prove the date that you wrote the letter defending your CO status in court. Do not open it!
  3. Send one to someone you trust in case you lose yours.
  4. Keep one for your own reference.
  5. You can also send one as a letter to the editor of your local newspaper encouraging others to do the same. This could also prove the date of your writing of this letter in case both original mailed letters are lost.

Begin to build a file to use if a draft comes. The file should contain:

  1. Books you have read that espouse an anti-war philosophy, events you have attended, actions you have taken, organizations you belong to. Don­t worry if none of these apply to you; you can still achieve CO status without them.
  2. Letters or short statements from parents, teachers, religious leaders, or friends about your character and supporting your claim of being a sincere conscientious objector.

If you are applying for CO status after induction into the military, or if you need to defend your CO status in court, or for more information, contact one of the following organizations:

  • War Resisters League: (212) 228-0450 or
  • Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors: (510) 465-1617 or (215) 563-8787

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