Conscientious Objection

Not Following Orders

Lance Corporal Stephen Eagle Funk, 20, (second from left) turns himself in at his Marine Corps reserve unit after refusing to serve in the Iraq war. As a Catholic who attended Mass most Sundays during training, Funk said, "I don't think Jesus was a violent man—in fact, the opposite—and I don't think God takes sides in war." Two British soldiers who questioned the legality of the U.S.-led war in Iraq were sent home from the Gulf, according to Reuters, and now face disciplinary action. The soldiers were returned to Britain on the eve of the war when they expressed concerns the offensive was in breach of the U.N. charter and that it might be illegal for them to follow certain orders.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
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Objection Sustained

Interest in conscientious objection is on the rise among members of the U.S. military, according to several indicators. The Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C., for instance, reported 3,500 calls for conscientious objector information in January, twice the normal rate. The same month, the U.S. Army reported granting five conscientious objector discharges and began consideration of six more new applications—compared with 17 discharges granted in the whole of 2002 and nine in 2001. The Air Force reported receiving six applications (and approving four) from October 2002 to April 2003, while the Marine Corps has discharged two as of April, compared with two throughout 2002. The Navy granted about 10 conscientious objector discharges in the past two years, but has already processed three in 2003, with three more pending.

In World War I there were 3,500 official conscientious objectors in the United States; in World War II there were 37,000; in Korea, 4,300; in Vietnam, 171,000; and in the 1991 Gulf war there were 111.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
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Won't Study War No More

An individual's right to refuse active military service on the grounds of conscience is a "fundamental aspect of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion," according to Europe's Seventh-day Adventists. This is a "significant recommendation," said Maurice Verfaillie of the Adventist Church. "In the past, many Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses in Spain, Italy, and Belgium have met great difficulties with military conscription." The recommendation affirms the right of all conscripts to "receive information on conscientious objector status and the means of obtaining it" and to receive "genuine alternative service of a clearly civilian nature" that is "not punitive in nature."

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2001
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