Writing a statement of conscience is a completely personal matter. Listen to your own inward knowledge and compulsion to do what is right. State your best sense of how love and truth are working within you. The results may be long or short, small or large, surprisingly new or long-standing.
Guidance for writing a Statement of Conscience is provided here. We have drawn from the experience and wisdom of the movement for Conscientious Objection to War, which recommends three main parts:
- Describe the beliefs that form and inform your conscience
- Describe how and when you acquired these beliefs or insights
- Explain how your conscience and beliefs affect the way you live
If you are a conscientious objector to selective service registration in the U.S. or to conscription or paying for war, following these steps will provide a solid foundation for preparation of a legal argument or claim. Otherwise, following these steps may assist you, or you may write as the inspiration comes to you.
This video walks you through the steps for writing a statement. As you watch the video, you may use the pause to stop and complete each step as the narrator talks you through it.
Group Writing Workshop on listening to and responding to conscience may like to watch the video on the Declaration page followed by using the video on this page with the pause to stop and complete each step as the narrator talks the group through it. This has been a wonderful experience for many groups.
Welcome to a movement of conscience!
Conscientious Objection to War Question 1
You must specify whether the objection is only for combatant military service and training or all military service and training.
The military will say that if your objection is a religious objection to killing others, there are “noncombatant” positions in the military that one could fill or support. This ignores the fact that the entire apparatus of the armed forces is focused on one mission—killing the enemy. But one must think through the issues of just directly killing someone yourself or doing so through your taxes, noncombatant military service or certain investments or employment opportunities.
This question asks you to describe, in some detail and as honestly as possible, the basic principles by which you guide your life.
You should describe those values which are of utmost importance to you, such as God, love, truth, etc., and why these beliefs are in conflict with participation in war of paying for war or preparations for war. You should begin by saying that you are conscientiously opposed to participation in war, and then describe the beliefs that lead you to such opposition.
The second part of this question seeks to determine whether you claim noncombatant status in the military or a full exemption from military service.
You should specify what it is about noncombatant service that would violate your conscience if you seek this exemption. Conscientious objectors to paying taxes for war should specify what it is about paying taxes for war that violates your conscience. If your convictions lead you to be a non-cooperator, your answer to this question might be useful should you ever be prosecuted or seek financial aid or other help from sources such as FEAT that provides school loans to CO non-registrants.
Conscientious Objection to War Question 2
In answering this question, you should include anything of significance that helped to form you beliefs.
Mention any religious training you have had if you feel such training has helped you arrive at your position. If you feel you arrived at your beliefs with no formal training, there is, of course, no need to mention any. The influence of clergy, teachers, family members, books, television, movies, membership in organizations and experiences in your life should be listed. Be specific.
You need to show that strong influences in your life have stimulated you to think clearly and seriously about participation in war. Specific incidents can be mentioned, such as seminars or assemblies you have attended, courses taken, trips taken, contact with refugees, demonstrations you were in, to show that your beliefs had substantial formation beyond a merely "academic interest". Obviously, if you have experience war, be sure to reflect on it.
Take care not to give the impression that your belief is primarily a matter of political considerations, expediency, or merely an arbitrary, personal moral code unrelated to higher values.
Unconventional beliefs do qualify, but they will require careful statement.
Conscientious Objection to War Question 3
This may be a difficult question for objectors who have not had many experiences that can show sincere beliefs.
Select the best illustrations of your convictions. Think about community service; church, mosque or synagogue participation; clubs; sports; or relationship with friends.
You can always discuss how your future plans are strongly affected by a commitment to those beliefs. Describe kinds of employment you have had or plan to have which reflect your commitment.
Discuss any written or oral public expression you have given to your beliefs.
Describe your lifestyle, mention your life’s goals as you have set them, and show how they are an outgrowth of your beliefs. Don’t forget to mention movies, video games, and other aspects of our violent culture that you don’t participate in, if that is the case for you.
This question allows you to demonstrate the sincerity with which you hold your beliefs.
You will be asked many questions during your required interviews.
Your interviews may be friendly or hostile, straightforward or apparently friendly but bent on tripping you up. Make your answers straightforward and sincere.
You don’t have to convince your interviews that you are right—only that you really believe what you say you believe. If you don’t have a good answer in your own mind, it’s all right to say that you haven’t arrived at an answer for a particular question. Nobody knows all the answers.
The questions in this page are real. They have been asked, along with thousands of others. You won’t be asked all of them. You may be asked none of them. But you, your counselor, and your friends can use them to prepare for you interviews, or to help in preparing you CO statement.
Nature of Belief
Do you doubt that God exists?
Is your conscientious objection to war deeply rooted in your own free thinking and personal opinions?
How can you say that your belief is religious?
Is your objection to killing or being killed?
What Does Your Church Say About War
Why do most members of your church support military force?
Where in the Bible do you find anything that forbids you to defend your country?
Why did Christ say, "He that hath no sword, let him buy one," "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar&s," and "I came not to bring peace, but a sword"?
What would you do if God told you to defend your country?
How do you explain all the wars in the Old Testament?
Do you think America&s millions who killed and died in wars were immoral to kill?
How about the Christian doctrine of approval for just wars?
Is it ever an honor to die for your country if you die keeping the enemy from conquering it?
Do you think that combat soldiers who believe they serve God in serving their country are misled?
Can no war be just and necessary regardless of the situation?
Do you believe in Romans 13:1-8 of the New Testament, in which it states that God ordains the governing authorities to be servants of God for the good of the governed?
Is there any possibility at all that your CO application comes out of a feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, or fear of military hardships?
Why are there no atheists in foxholes?
Why Not 1-A-O?
Does God love that dying American infantry soldier on the battlefield? Would he want someone like you to try to save his life? Does "loving one&s neighbor as oneself" ever include being a medic?
Would it be a high honor for you to die for our country if you did so while helping to save the life of a dying American soldier?
Can you say that a medic helping a dying soldier is an immoral act and can never be an expression of God&s love?
If you don&t believe in killing, why let a wounded soldier die?
How, When and from Whom or What Source?
Do you respect and follow the religion of your parents?
Did you arrive at your decision to apply for CO by your own personal ideas alone?
Did books you read have most to do with influencing your request for CO status?
Since you say you have been a CO for only two months, might your conscience not change back again two months from now?
Who helped you prepare your CO applications? Are these really your own beliefs?
Use of Force
Do you honestly think the Armed Forces should be abolished?
What method would you use to resist evil?
Would you forcibly restrain individual law breakers?
Would you use force to preserve anything you believe in?
Would you use force to prevent a maniac from killing an innocent person? From killing you? From killing himself? Wasn&t Hitler a maniac?
Can&t non-destructive force, such as strikes and boycotts, be just as painful and destructive as physical violence?
If someone were attacking your mother, would you try to stop him or would you call the police?
Didn&t Jesus use violence in driving the money-changers from the temple?
Do you think the federal government was right in using military force as it has in riots, disorders, and racial strife?
Do you think blacks are justified in using self-defense?
Do you believe in the kind of force the police often have to use to stop killer criminals from murdering others?
What Have You Done?
Are you trying to influence others to become conscientious objectors?
How can you prove you&re a CO?
What will you do if your application is denied?
And Some Other Questions
Why do you take your place in a society organized by force and then refuse to fight its wars?
Why do you pay taxes?
If you really believe these things, why cant you just write a book or speak out about your beliefs after you finish your enlistment? Wouldn&t people have more respect for what you have to say knowing that you served your country?
Aren't you bringing a great deal of dishonor on your family?
Do you think the authority of your conscience is much more reliable than the consciences of most Americans?
Do you realize you are helping to destroy this society?