IN MARCH, THE National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service sent recommendations to Congress for changes to the Selective Service System, the military draft. For people of conscience, the issues at the heart of our concern were the expansion of Selective Service and the draft and protection of the rights of conscientious objectors (COs). Conscientious objectors are defined by the Defense Department as those with “a firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.” Some consider draft registration to be participation in war and a violation of their conscience.
During the commission’s two years of public hearings and debate, religious communities and peace organizations advocated for the commission to recommend that the Selective Service System be put into deep standby, as it was between 1975 and 1980. Short of that, we advocated for a process for COs to make their objection to war known at the time of registration with a “CO check-off box.” The commission ultimately rejected that option, stating that though it “would probably require minimal expense,” it would cause “confusion, during a draft, for those who indicated their intent to file for conscientious objector status.”