The virtual celebration of CCW’s 80th anniversary took place on Saturday, October 3, 2020.
Eighty years ago this week, as Europe was battling the Nazis and the U.S. contemplated joining the battle, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act, the very first peacetime conscription in the United States. A few days later came the official founding of the Center on Conscience and War (CCW), the only national organization aimed at protecting the rights of conscientious objectors to war.
In this year filled with 80th anniversaries linked to World War II, between the battles of Dunkirk and Paris, there’s been less discussion of Tuesday’s anniversary of the Selective Service legislation—signed on September 29, 1940, as many wondered when, not if the U.S. would enter the war. Most coverage of that moment has justly focused on rights for African-American servicemembers; right alongside that struggle was one to protect those whose beliefs prevent them from participating in war and preparations for war – many of whom were men of color, like Bayard Rustin, a peace and civil rights activist, instrumental in the 1963 March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom
In the 80 years since that week, CCW (at its the founding the National Service Board for Religious Objectors, the name shifting as its mandate broadened) has helped thousands of individuals to peaceably dissent, providing counseling and legal support in their journey. On Saturday, October 3, CCW invites all to a virtual 80th Anniversary celebration, with special guests whose stories can illustrate its path over the 80 years.
- Documentarian Judith Ehrlich, director of The Good War – And Those Who Refused to Fight it, will offer an overview of the time of CCW’s founding, including the 12,000 COs in government-sponsored Civilian Public Services camps; she’ll then offer a preview of her new film The Boys Who Said No, about draft resistance during the U.S. war against Vietnam.
- L .William Yolton, a Korean War-era CO who served as CCW’s director in subsequent years, will talk about CCW’s work during the latter struggle, including helping a young activist named Bill Galvin, who went on to work with military resisters for the rest of his life.
- Dan Seeger will talk about being the defendant in the Supreme Court case US v. Seeger (1965), which broadened the legal definition of conscientious objection; the Court in Seeger changed CO struck down the requirement that individuals believe in a “supreme being” and greatly extending CO rights to agnostics and atheists whose anti-war beliefs have the force of religion.
After the draft ended in 1973, CCW was still busy, as the all-volunteer army produced a bumper crop of “in-service” COs who discovered anti-militarism after time in the military system. Others came home to join the fight after discharge. On Saturday we’ll hear from anti-war veterans, some of whom were helped in their journey by CCW staff.
- Ellen Barfield, one of the first women in the new, post-Vietnam army, who after years in Germany and South Korea became a vice president of Veterans for Peace and joined CCW’s board, as well as that of the War Resisters League.
- Also a CCW board member, Nolan Fontaine was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, whose CO beliefs crystallized in 2005 as he was deployed to New Orleans, and asked to turn weapons of war against members of a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
- A year later, CCW was contacted by Jonathan Wesley Hutto, a Navy photographer’s mate organizing the Appeal for Redress, in which servicemembers contacted Congress under the protection of the Military Whistleblowers Protection Act. (Click here for Hutto’s book Antiwar Soldier.)
- And Jazmine Hill, a former Air Force Logistics Planner and third in a line of women who dedicated their lives to serving their country. Jazmine’s mother died of Gulf War Syndrome when she was just a small child, and Jazmine was raised by her grandmother, a civilian retiree of Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Jazmine was in the process of fighting for her discharge when Donald Trump was elected president.
To commemorate the anniversary, Saturday’s event will also celebrate the upcoming I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters and Objectors to America’s Wars (The New Press), Its author, CCW board member and journalist Chris Lombardi, will conclude the afternoon with a short reading and discussion of the book, whose earliest conscientious-objector character had his epiphany on July 4, 1777.
“There have been conscientious objectors as long as there have been wars,” said CCW director Maria Santelli. “In the 80 years since its founding, CCW has served tens of thousands of COs. Our founders did not expect the organization to have a reason to exist after WWII, but here we are, eight decades later. As wars still rage abroad and troops are called to march the streets here at home, the need for our work has never been more clear or our services more relevant.”
The public and press are invited to attend via Zoom!
Time: Oct 3, 2020 05:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)