Another Privilege

The following statement was the result of a conference held at Earlham College in 1968, at the time of the Viet Nam War.  I was a student at Scattergood Friends School at the time, and was able to attend this conference.  I’m sharing this now, because it highlights another form of privilege, and the dangers of privileges.

I struggled with my own draft decision while at Scattergood.  Although I did apply for, and was granted conscientious objector status while I was trying to make a final decision, in the end I decided I could not cooperate with the draft, and returned my draft cards.  A related Supreme Court case resulted in me not being prosecuted for that.

Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace has announced a national conference on the draft and conscription to be held at Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana), October 11th through 13th. It is primarily planned as a working conference, with about 180 representatives from Yearly Meetings, Friends schools and other Friends’ organizations and seventy to a hundred additional Friends appointed at large. A detailed program and other information may be obtained from FCCP, 1520 Race Street, Philadelphia, 19102.   Friends Journal 8/15/1968

1968 Richmond Declaration on the Draft and Conscription

We call on Friends everywhere to recognize the oppressive burden of militarism and conscription. We acknowledge our complicity in these evils in ways sometimes silent and subtle, at times painfully apparent. We are under obligation as Children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends to break the yoke of that complicity.

As Friends we have for many years been granted privileged status within the draft system. This has often blinded us to the evil of the draft itself, and the treatment of those not so privileged. We are grateful for all those who by resolutely resisting the draft have quickened our conscience. We are called into the community of all who suffer for their refusal to perform unconscionable acts.

We reaffirm the “Advices on Conscription and War” adopted at Richmond in 1948. We realize in 1968 that our testimony against conscription is strengthened by refusing to comply with the Selective Service law. We also recognize that the problem of paying war taxes has intensified; this compels us to find realistic ways to refuse to pay these taxes.

We recognize the evil nature of all forms of conscription, and its inconsistency with the teachings and example of Christ. Military conscription in the United States today undergirds the aggressive foreign policies and oppressive domestic policies which rely on easy availability of military manpower. Conscription threatens the right and responsibility of every person to make decisions in matters of conscience. Friends opposing war should refuse any kind of military service; Friends opposing conscription should refuse to cooperate with the Selective Service System.

We call for the abolition of the Selection Service System and commit ourselves to work with renewed dedication to abolish it. We shall oppose attempts to perpetuate or extend conscription, however constructive the alleged purpose, by such a system as National Service. We do not support efforts at draft reform; the issue is not equal treatment under compulsion, but freedom from compulsion.

We recognize how difficult it is to work through these complex issues, and to bear the burden of decision and action. We hold in love and respect each member of our Society as he follows where conscience leads. We know there are spiritual resources available to those who would be faithful.

Friends Are Urged to:

  1. Commit our energies and resources in substantial measure to launch a concerted campaign to end the draft. Friends can serve as a catalyst in this effort, in cooperation with groups representing a cross-section of American life.
  2. Prepare for Monthly Meetings three sets of queries designed to:
  3. clarify the responsibility of the Meeting to all young men of draft age.
  4. help young Friends think through their alternatives.
  5. assist Friends not directly subject to the draft to decide what actions they should take.
  6. Appoint in each Monthly Meeting a Clearness Committee to assist all its young men in their search for clarity as they face the draft.
  7. Set up procedures for called Meetings for Worship to share the affirmation of young men who engage in such acts of resistance as refusing to register, or disaffiliating from Selective Service or the Armed Forces.
  8. Establish Meetings for Sufferings to provide for such needs of resisters as:
  9. jobs for those awaiting sentence
  10. help for families
  11. bail and legal aid
  12. meeting places for groups of resisters
  13. hospitality and shelter
  14. formation of a Resisters Service and Action Corps for those who choose to witness in this way.
  15. Consider engaging in corporate acts of support for resisters in Friends schools, colleges and organizations, even when such acts involve conflict with man-made laws.
  16. Provide draft information and counseling centers in the local community, supported by their Meetings, schools, colleges or organizations.
  17. Respond to the needs of young men whose conscientious resistance to conscription and military service leads them to courses of action other than open disaffiliation. Included are some men in such situations as these:
  18. those who may become refugees in other lands for conscience sake
  19. AWOL military personnel
  20. men still on active military duty.

Affirmation of Action

We commit ourselves to validate our witness by visible changes in our lives, though they may involve personal jeopardy. We cannot rest until we achieve a truly corporate witness in the effort to oppose and end conscription. Let us hold each other in the Light which both reveals our weaknesses and strengthens us to overcome them.

[Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace organized a Friends National Conference on the Draft and Conscription, held in Richmond, Indiana, Oct. 11-13, 1968. This declaration was used by many Friends who took the noncooperator position at their trials. It was reprinted in Quakers and the Draft, Charles Walker, editor: 1969.]


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