What is a Conscientious Objector?
Legally, a conscientious objector is a person who, by reason of “religious training and belief,” is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form. In 1965 and 1970 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the words “religious training and belief” must be interpreted to include moral and ethical beliefs that have the same force in people’s lives as traditional religious beliefs. So, you don’t have to belong to any particular religion to be a CO. In fact, you don’t have to belong to any religion at all.
Also, to be a conscientious objector, you don't have to believe in God. Nor do you have to oppose using violence in personal self-defense.
But political beliefs, or strictly personal beliefs not held by others, do NOT qualify a person for conscientious objector status.
Under current law, you must oppose participating in ALL wars. (Advocates are still fighting for legal recognition of selective conscientious objection, your right to refuse to fight in specific wars.)
Even though conscientious objectors are not drafted to kill in the military, they must still serve the country in alternative service if there is a draft.
Noncombatants (classified 1-A-O) would serve in the
military, but without using weapons or handling ammunition. (In the past
they have usually served in the medical corps.)
Under present law, conscientious objectors opposed to military service in any capacity (classified 1-O) would do alternative service in one of five areas in the national interest: education, health care, social services, agriculture, or environmental protection. In the past, many conscientious objectors of this type have found their own jobs and had them approved by the Selective Service System. There are organizations, like CCW, that would help COs to find qualifying jobs.
For good information, contact:
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
405 14th Street #205
Oakland, CA 94612
Fax 510 465-2459
1515 Cherry St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Center on Conscience & War (CCW, formerly NISBCO)
Email address: email@example.com
1830 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone: (202) 483-2220 or 1-800-379-2679
Fax: (202) 483-1246