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Presbyterians and military service
With concurrent engagements taking place in Afghanistan and Iraq and an ongoing presence in numerous other countries, the United States armed forces are being stretched. Enlistment is low; some military branches are failing to meet recruitment goals. Some members of the service are asked to extend their tours of duty. In the face of this situation, many people speculate that the U.S. will be forced to reinstate a draft. The reinstatement of a draft always remains possible because of the existence of the Selective Service System that currently requires 18-year old men to register. However, many who address conscientious objection and other draft-related issues believe a draft is not imminent. They do note that a draft could be reinstated fairly rapidly once the decision has been made to do so.
If a draft is reinstated, people will probably be required to establish conscientious objector status (CO) in a short time period, perhaps as short as one to two weeks. Establishing CO status involves providing documentation that may be difficult to gather quickly. Individuals who are COs should be working now to document that position. As a result, those addressing issues related to conscientious objection strongly encourage those who work with young people to talk candidly about their options if the draft where to happen. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a strong history of supporting those who decide to serve in the military and those who consciously object to war.
As young people make their choices on these matters, it is important to understand the truths and implications of their position and to gather information about their rights. The Peacemaking Program, in cooperation with the Office of the General Assembly have created a number of flyers that may help people understand PC(USA) policy and explore the various options related to the military.
The 218th General Assembly (2008) acted to reaffirm the “church’s position on the freedom of conscience, especially as it relates to a person’s status as a conscientious objector against participating in the armed services, (cf. the 215th General Assembly (2003) statement: On Strengthening Our Christian Peacemaking Vision and Witness in Wartime, Minutes, 2003, Part I, p. 651).” Continue reading →
Presbyterians and Military Service Information:
For more information on issues related to military service, visit:
- Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel
- Center on Conscience and War
- Women and Military Service
- International Society for Military Ethics
Recognizing the stress placed on individuals serving in the military, a coalition of nonprofit, non-governmental organizations have created the GI Rights Hotline: (877) 447-4487 (877-GI RGHTS). The hotline provides information to members of the military about discharges, grievance and complaint procedures and other civil rights. Individuals who have enlisted in the armed forces and come to question that decision based on new understandings of faith may use the hotline or visit the GI Rights Hotline Web site.