Sunday, June 19, 2005

Peace Churches Prepare Members to be Conscientious Objectors

From the Philadelphia Inquirer.....

Peace churches plan alternatives to military draft The government stresses it has no plans for one - but urges pacifists to be ready by Tom Infield, Inquirer Staff Writer

For the first time since the Vietnam War, pacifist churches are thinking of how to prepare young men to become conscientious objectors in the event the draft is resumed.

President Bush, leaders of Congress, and the military brass all say forcefully that, no, no, no, there are no plans for military conscription.

But members of what are often called the historic peace churches - Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers - believe a draft appears more and more likely as U.S. troops continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Army fails to meet its recruitment goals.

"We are probably one terrorist attack - one 9/11 - away from a draft," said Dan McFadden, director of Brethren Volunteer Service in Elgin, Ill.

Leaders of the peace churches, which have their roots in Pennsylvania, say that what they may need to do now is prepare in-house programs in which their young men might perform two years of required civilian public service in exchange for not having to go into the military.

The draft ended in 1973. But the Selective Service System, which is charged with maintaining machinery for a draft, is encouraging the peace churches to make contingency plans.

"We do encourage it," said Cassandra Costley, who was appointed last year as director of a new alternative-service division within Selective Service.

"It's not because we expect there is going to be a draft in the next year - or the next five years," Costley said from her office in Rosslyn, Va. "But our mandate is that we be prepared."

McFadden was among three Brethren and Mennonite leaders from across the United States who held a telephone conference last week to go over options for alternative service.

"There aren't any definite plans at this point; we are just going to keep talking," he said.

The conference followed up on a March meeting of Anabaptist leaders in Elgin, which also drew Quakers. Costley and another Selective Service official attended.

Since 1980, all males have been required to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. The draft pool consists of about 15 million registrants.

Church leaders say thousands of their members would surely seek to become conscientious objectors - C.O.s - if the draft were reinstated.

An article in the May issue of Quaker Life, a magazine published by Indiana Quakers, advised men with pacifist views to lay the groundwork now for C.O. application later on.

It urged them to "begin to establish a way of life that demonstrates your beliefs actually mean something to you" by attending Quaker worship, doing service projects, and joining peace events. Read the rest of the article....

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