Originally published 11/19/10 at ChristianFighterPilot.com
There is certainly validity to the claim that “moral injury” is contributing to PTSD and even suicides among active and former military members. It is regrettable, however, that groups are choosing to focus on the seeming political popularity of wars, rather than that which most directly impacts troops: After violently taking a life (an action seemingly at odds with their morality) they seek reassurance that their conduct is “morally right” — and they are told that it is neither right nor wrong, it’s just what they’ve been ordered to do.
Originally published 11/10/10 at Beliefnet.com
On the eve of Veterans Day, religious leaders and veterans called for a reconsideration of conscientious objection to war, saying military members should have the right to object to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for moral reasons.
In a report issued Wednesday (Nov. 10), the Truth Commission on Conscience in War called on the military to revise its rules to include “selective conscientious objection,” and urged religious leaders to address issues of conscience during wartime.
“Training has made it so that our soldiers are much more reflexive than they are reflective about things that happen on the battlefield,” said the Rev. Herman Keizer, a retired Army chaplain who once oversaw chaplains in the European Command. “And when they do get an opportunity to reflect, that’s when the moral issues really begin to roll.”
by Bob Allen
Originally published 11/10/10 at ABPNews.com (Associated Baptist Press)
Objector status, recognized since the Civil War, originally applied to members of certain religious groups known for their pacifist beliefs, such as Quakers and Mennonites. The Supreme Court expanded the definition in 1971 to include not only members of specified religious traditions, but also anyone with “deeply held beliefs that cause them to oppose participation in war in any form.”
The truth commission pointed out that the current exemption still applies only to pacifists, a small minority among Christians, while leaving out those in the “just-war” tradition embraced by the vast majority of Christians.
Originally published 11/10/10 at Sermons in Stones
It used to be that in order to be granted conscientious objector status, you had to claim religious grounds; I believe you also had to be a member of a “peace church” such as the Quakers or Mennonites. In either case, this was overturned in 1965, in United States v. Seeger, which ruled that one could seek CO status based on any religious belief, defined as “a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God” of other people.
Now the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, on whose Planning Committee the Starr King School for the Ministry serves, proposes a further expansion of the grounds for conscientious objection. To my mind it is similarly reasonable to US v Seeger, though difficult to administer (as are people’s current claims of religious objection to war): instead of requiring all would-be COs to be pacifists, it would allow someone to object to participation in a particular, or particular kind of, war.
by Logan Laituri
Originally published 10/13/2010 at sojo.net
Second in a series of articles about selective conscientious objection (“SCO”), by Iraq veteran and current seminary student Logan Laituri. Noting that the Roman Catholic Church is the largest single denominational body in the U.S., Laituri documents the Catholic Church’s support of SCO, based upon the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching: sanctity of human life and dignity of the human person. The article traces the support for SCO provided by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and, more recently, three years ago in the context of the Iraq War. Laituri’s article calls for the church, generally, including many denominations, to provide the leadership necessary to make SCO a reality.
Autonomy of conscience is based on the very nature of the dignity of the human person, since for even a legitimate authority to refuse moral agency is to impose psychological slavery upon the person refused. …
SCO is both a moral and social imperative. Many denominations, not the least of which being the largest faith community in the United States, recognize this to be the case. Beyond being merely an issue of legalistic or juridical importance, this is an issue that draws directly from our history of progressive social justice for and by the people. The church has led the way before, and we can do it again.
by Rita Nakashima Brock and David B. Miller
Originally published 10/14/2010 at huffingtonpost.com
Two Commissioners serving on the Truth Commission on Conscience in War describe a recent exchange at Duke University between Defense Secretary Gates and Iraq War veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri, regarding the manner in which Christian service members are treated under current military regulations.
Mehl-Laituri supports the right of service members to apply for, and receive, conscientious objector (CO) status based upon their beliefs that a war is unjust, applying Christian just war principles. Currently military regulations afford conscientious objector status only to those whose faith teaches objection to war in any form. When Mehl-Laituri inquired about the constitutionality of current regulations, Gates defended the status quo, including by stating that no one is forced to re-enlist. The Commissioners respond that the Secretary’s answer does not address the fundamental issues raised and also ignores the “stop loss” policies that have been in place. They argue for much needed change in CO legislation.
The limitation of CO status to those who object to all wars flies in the face of what the military itself teaches. Those who enlist receive instruction in principles of just war both in basic training and in the war colleges. They are told that in war, especially, keeping a moral inner compass is crucial. Yet, if they believe a war is unjust, they are trapped between having to face prison for refusing to deploy or sacrificing that moral compass to fight.
So significant and far-reaching has been this compromise of moral conscience that the VA psychiatric community now recognizes “moral injury” as a clinically identifiable condition in urgent need of treatment. An article last December, by a group of VA clinicians, defined it as psychological harm caused by “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (Clinical Psychological Review, v. 29. n.8).
[T]he majority of religious and nonreligious persons alike use some form of just war theory to guide moral conscience. Just war establishes minimum moral conditions for the taking up of arms to kill another soldier. Such a code emerged among the ancient Greek philosophers and entered Christianity in the late fourth century, once Christians were able to serve in the imperial army. A version of it is what the U.S. military teaches.
Despite this long precedent and the military’s own instructions, the right of selective conscientious objection (objection to a particular war) lacks legal protection in the U. S. Despite the fact that we have signed international laws that have been used to convict soldiers in other nations of war crimes, we ignore in our military the right of soldiers to disobey an order to prosecute a war they believe is immoral. …
Members of our military forces must have the right of selective conscientious objection. As moral citizens of a democracy, we must not tolerate policies that injure our own sons and daughters. We ask a great deal of those we call upon to take life on our behalf. We should not ask them to commit moral suicide.
Conscientious Objection and the Laws of Warfare
by Jennifer Whitten and Miriam Marton
Download the full article here [pdf]