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Conscientious Objectors - What is a Conscientious Objector?

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A member who can convince the military that they are conscientious objectors may request a discharge. This is not as easy as it sounds. First, the member would have to show that his/her beliefs changed significantly after they joined the military, because one must certify that they are not conscientious objectors at the time of voluntary enlistment.

You can't pick and choose which war you object to. By law, a conscientious objector is one who is opposed to participation in all wars. The person's opposition must be based on religious belief and training, and it must be deeply held.

In order to find that an applicant's moral and ethical beliefs are against participation in war in any form and are held with the strength of traditional religious convictions, the applicant must show that these moral and ethical convictions, once acquired, have directed his life in the way traditional religious convictions of equal strength, depth and duration have directed the lives of those whose beliefs are clearly found in traditional religious convictions. In other words, the belief upon which conscientious objection is based must be the primary controlling force in the applicant's life.

The burden of establishing a claim of conscientious objection as grounds for separation is on the applicant. To this end, applicants must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the nature or basis of the claim comes within the definition of criteria prescribed by DoD Directive 1300.6, Conscientious Objectors, for conscientious objection and that their beliefs are sincere.

Sincerity is determined by an impartial evaluation of the applicant's thinking and living in its totality, past and present. Information presented by the claimant must be sufficient to convince the commander that the claimant's personal history reveals views and actions strong enough to demonstrate that expediency or avoidance of military service is not the basis of his claim.

When evaluating applications for CO status, commanders consider relevant factors including: training in the home and church; general demeanor and pattern of conduct; participation in religious activities; whether ethical or moral convictions were gained through training, study, contemplation, or other activity comparable in rigor and dedication to the processes by which traditional religious convictions are formulated; credibility of the applicant; and credibility of persons supporting the claim.

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