Who is a Military Conscientious Objector?
Contact the Center on Conscience & War if you’re in the US military and want to seek discharge or reassignment as a Conscientious Objector.
We’ll work with you to navigate the admin process.
All of our services are completely free of charge.
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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.
Current military policy (DoD Instruction 1300.06, dated July 12, 2017) has defined conscientious objection as, “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.” This definition has been further clarified by both military policy and our legal system. The following words and phrases found in the above definition are further clarified:
- The term “religious” also includes moral and ethical beliefs which have the same force in a person’s life as traditional religious beliefs.
- The term “religious” does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views.
“Training and/or belief”
- “Training” refers to the source of conviction or, more simply, the experiences that shaped your values. This may come from a lifetime of involvement in an organized religion that teaches active love for the enemy, for example (i.e. not killing), or from books, movies, or TV shows.
- “Training” could also arise from experiences serving in the military or from other life experiences.
- “Belief” refers to the values you hold which do not allow you to participate in military service or the bearing of arms.
- “Participation” highlights the personal nature of the claim. Thus a CO claim is not an abstract critique of war. It is a statement of what you believe, and what you can or cannot do in good conscience.
- “Participation” underscores that this is not about whether you think war is illogical or bad policy, for example.
- The term “In War” means that although a CO must object to war, he or she does not have to object to the use of violence by a police force or for self-defense, although many COs do hold nonviolent convictions.
- It is important to note the difference between force and violence. Punching someone is an example of violent force, while pulling a child away from a moving car is an example of nonviolent force.
“In Any Form”
- “In Any Form” precludes those who are opposed to a particular war. Such persons are called selective conscientious objectors and do not meet the current legal definition of a conscientious objector.
- If one believes in the Just War Theory, which is held by many religious traditions, that person would have to also conclude/believe that there are in fact no just wars. Only then would they meet the current legal definition of a conscientious objector.
The Center on Conscience & War has supported conscientious objectors since 1940! We have experienced staff that can support you through the somewhat complex, administrative conscientious objection application process.
Our Counseling Director, Bill Galvin, has extensive experience beginning in the early 1970s during the Vietnam era. Bill is the author of the most recent version of the Draft Counselor’s Manual and the Guide for COs in the Military. All counselors are trained in the military policy and process for Conscientious Objection.
If you believe you might fall within the definition provided, give us a call today at 202-483-2220. Then, download and study these three PDF documents:
- Our Guide for COs in the Military (HTML)
- DoD Instruction on Conscientious Objectors (2017)
- CO regs specific to you:
CO Application Writing Tool
If you are limited to using a phone or tablet, we’ve created an online CO Application Writing Tool which takes you through the process step-by-step. CCW will then work with you via a shared Google Doc so that your final application is as good as it can be.