Why Do We Support Selective Conscientious Objection?

Our nation has now been at war for almost a decade. As our soldiers consider re-deployment or combat veterans return to rebuild their lives in light of their experiences in war, we are increasingly aware of the crisis of conscience some soldiers wrestle with and the moral injury some have experienced in combat.

Christian Peace Witness is committed to work for the establishment of selective conscientious objection based on our support of Christians and others whenever they take steps of conscience to reject violence and killing.

Conscientious Objector Status has protected the conscience of Christians in the pacifist tradition in times of war for decades. However, under present law there is no legal avenue for soldiers outside of these pacifist traditions to exercise his/her conscience regarding specific wars.

A change in U.S. policy to include Selective Conscientious Objection is needed now to reflect a broader spectrum of religious traditions and respect the sacrifice made by our soldiers.

  • Religious traditions that adhere to a Just War ethic believe the Christian soldier is obligated to refuse participation in wars, weapons systems or military orders deemed unjust. Under present law there is no legal possibility for the Christian soldier to exercise his/her conscience in this way. For the just war theory to have practical meaning, there must be the option of selective conscientious objection.
  • Those traditions that affirm a Just Peace ethic believe that only true justice will lead to a sustainable peace. Supporting selective conscientious objection is a way to ensure justice both for the individual soldiers involved in war, as well as transforming the system that supports it. Peace is the goal, but so is ensuring that individuals are given the right to exercise their conscience.
  • Those in the pacifist tradition, believing that the way of Jesus prevents them from engaging in any form of war, naturally support others whenever they make a choice against violence. By working across theological differences to recognize and heal the injuries of war, pacifists continue their work of peacemaking.

On Veterans Day 2010, The Truth Commission on Conscience and War, representing a variety of religious leaders, chaplains, vets, and ethicists, made public a report on the continued struggle of conscience many of our current soldiers and veterans face. The call was made to update U.S. policy to include selective conscientious objection and thereby reflect a broader spectrum of religious traditions. Christian Peace Witness joins this movement to acknowledge the deep and diverse moral issues in war and support soldiers of conscience. We look forward to your partnership!

For information, visit www.christianpeacewitness.org or email conscience@christianpeacewitness.org.

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