The Center on Conscience and War receives a steady volume of requests from current U.S. military service members for counseling assistance and continue to receive inquiries from non-registrants, youth facing draft registration, and their parents. In addition to receiving calls directly to 202-483-2220, CCW also participates in the national military counselor’s network and the GI Rights Hotline (1-877-447-4487).
Military Conscientious Objectors
Some 200 military personnel seek separation from the military each year as conscientious objectors. Some are able to satisfactorily resolve their cases without consulting a military counselor, though many turn to organizations such as Center on Conscience & War, American Friends Service Committee, and other counseling sources around the country. Military COs are often desperate, confused and harassed by military officials. Counseling involves an important element of pastoral care, along with a knowledge of DOD regulations and pitfalls.
We are engaging in efforts to expand the counseling network through targeted outreach, fund appeals and The Reporter. We especially want to identify pastoral workers, attorneys and others who live near major military installations, where there is a greater need for counselors. Outreach efforts conducted by CCW and Quaker House in North Carolina demonstrate that if GIs are made aware of their rights and the availability of counseling, they take advantage of it.
This is especially important as so many young men and women join the military with mistaken notions about what it is they will be doing. Their confusion comes both from actual misstatements by recruitment personnel and from the increasing glorification of the military by slick advertising.
The Delayed Entry Program
A high percentage of military enlistments occur through the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP). This program counts on the naiveté of young men and women, particularly ones seeking a solution for education costs, who do not have their parents around at that time to counsel them. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to get released from the military “obligation” created under this program. Counseling DEP members is comparatively straightforward and does not require the commitment of time often entailed by counseling military COs. We are expanding our DEP counseling as a component of our Youth Outreach program. We are seeking contacts in the DC Public School System, looking to place paid advertisements in school newspapers, provide information on the DEP to school counselors, and place CCW counseling notices on school announcement boards.
DEP counseling provides an excellent vehicle whereby individual supporters of CCW may work at the local level through public school outreach and education.
Selective Service Draft Registration
CCW regularly receives calls from youth, parents, and church workers requesting information on the status of draft registration and the draft. We maintain a file of CO statements prepared by young men facing draft registration, which would serve as evidence of sincerity and depth of belief should they ever be faced with an actual draft. CCW staff respond to these statements with suggestions for improvement as needed.
Immigration and Naturalization
CCW receives calls from conscientious objectors who object to taking the Oath of Allegiance for U.S. citizenship, those seeking political asylum based on their CO beliefs, as well as the immigration lawyers who represent them. While the Immigration and Nationality Act does permit COs to take an alternative oath, the definition of who can be a CO is often restricted in practice to individuals who are formal members of religious communities which have a strong tradition of pacifism such as Buddhists, Quakers and Mennonites. In effect, the Act employs the CO standards utilized by the U.S. government during the First World War, under which only members of “Peace Churches” can be COs.
This happens in spite of the fact the the Constitutional protection extends to all Conscientious Objectors–even those whose beliefs do not derive from religious faith. The Center is looking to expand its counseling in this area so that the Immigration and Naturalization Service will recognize the right of all individuals not to swear an oath to take up arms to defend the United States.
GI Rights Hotline
Counseling on civil and other rights issues for military personnel.
CCW maintains its own toll-free number, 1-800-379-2679, as well as participates in the national military counselor’s network and the GI Rights Hotline (1-877-447-4487).