This April, Haverford Quarterly Meeting convened to discuss the offering of conscientious objector (CO) training by Winifred Shaw Hope. The training (open to all) will be hosted on June 12 and 19. Participant costs will be defrayed by grants from some of the Quarter’s meetings. Below we unpack some of the history around how very precious the CO service option is. Training is necessary if meetings and schools are to be prepared to help 18-26 year-olds understand and access their options around registering as COs or becoming subject to compulsory military service in the event of a draft.
Knowing our Conscientious Objector History
On June 22, 2002 a group of Quaker historians and archivists gathered at Haverford College. Among them was the scholar Ann Yoder, whose presentation was on Quaker conscientious objector’s papers found in Swarthmore College’s Peace Collection.
The stories of those who have gone before us are very important in motivating us today to develop and follow viable responses to current violence, and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping to save and to relate the historical record of conscientious objection. – Anne Yoder
Anne did some remarkable research.
The first two documented Quaker Conscientious Objectors were Alfred Love and Joshua Pollard Blanchard. Joshua was born in 1782, and was asked to serve in the war of 1812. He refused, and wrote about that refusal for the rest of his life. His opinions were published in newspapers and he kept a book of news clippings which Anne referenced in her talk.
Alfred, who was born in 1830, faced the Civil War. He refused both service in the Union Army and also the $300 fine, to fund a substitute conscript, though he could well afford it as a prosperous wool merchant. His Quaker principles likewise steered him away from allowing his business to participate in the war economy, and he was criticized for his moral inflexibility.
Swarthmore college has 64 years of Alfred Love’s journal writing spanning the years 1848 to 1912. Anne noted in her talk that Alfred “wrote in fascinating detail about his family, friends and community, interspersed with his observations about the war and his inner light that convicted him against it. In fact, I hardly got this paper done because I was so intrigued by his journals so that I spent far too much time perusing them this week.”
One April 21st, 1861, entry was quoted in full by Anne in her talk:
Sunday…. Went with Ma to good old quaint Green St. Meeting. I have had for three days an intense feeling & a Spirit moving to attend Social worship there this day & I was gratified by hearing Henry W. Ridgway on the subject of the day — war! He was very earnestly conclusive for peace. I felt the full force of the occasion & the deep responsibility resting upon every one & especially upon the Quaker. Soon after Henry sat down I offered a few remarks that flowed from me as freely as I felt the flood of light stream into my soul. I am so clear & firm that one ought not to contend with arms but should carry out …the great truths of early Friends. The golden rule seems now forgotten & some of our Friends waver & some have even joined the army. To these I felt called upon to speak…. It was a great trial to thus get up in meeting but this is no time to please ourselves merely & be afraid.
Search for Resolution and the birth of AFSC
In time, the pacifist churches in America banded together to lobby for legislated alternatives to conscription.
The American Friends Service Committee was founded by Rufus Jones, in 1917, as an alternative to military service. It organized compassionate services to victims of war, an ambulance corps, and peace camps that offered Friends another way. Britain Yearly Meeting, which has an excellent set of resources on Quaker history, describes that period of energy and advocacy as follows:
AFSC was founded by Rufus Jones and others, in 1917, soon after the US entered World War I. Its initial purpose was to help conscientious objectors contribute in nonviolent ways. Many were enabled to drive ambulances in France, often working with the Friends Ambulance Unit, created for similar reasons in Britain in 1914.
Between WW1 and WW2 AFSC helped with rebuilding Europe, and also developed a programme of work within the US. In Europe they ran several relief operations, notably the Quakerspeisung, which fed many children in Germany and Austria after WW1. Later they helped Jewish refugees to leave Germany before WW2. In the US they helped Appalachian miners to find alternative employment during the 1930s Depression.
During WW2 the US set up the CPS (Civilian Public Service) for conscientious objectors. AFSC ran several CPS camps. Japanese Americans were interned in large numbers after Pearl Harbour, and AFSC gave them what support they could, including helping them to get enrolled at universities willing to take them.
The Vietnam war, vividly remembered by older Friends today drew many people into the Religious Society of Friends. Since then at each escalation of violence in the world, Quakers have gathered together to train those youths who wish to document their resistance to war. It isn’t a path every person takes. It is a path Friends hope to keep open to those who seek it.
Conscientious Objector Training
Haverford Quarter’s Committee for Conscientious Objection Training is hosting a June 12, 2021 training session for interested 18-26 year-olds. Planned for two years, as a three part process, participants will to learn how to meet the important documentation requirements associated with Conscientious Objector status.
An independent agency of the United States government, the Selective Service System (SSS), maintains information on 18-26 year-olds males who could be subject to military conscription should our government opt to enact a draft. When a person documented as male turns 18, he must register with the SSS. For those who wish to be conscientious objectors the proof of non-violent beliefs starts much earlier.
Below is an interview with Winnie Shaw Hope, one of the organizers of the training.
Question: Winnie, how does this training work?
The training is coordinated by me, but given by Bill Galvin, Center on Conscience and War. It will be done virtually. Registration is open to all, and there will be three sessions offered (one of which is done independently, asynchronously).
First, prior to the pair of workshops, all registrants will need to complete a four-hour asynchronous Zoom training session. Then we are hosting these two Saturday morning trainings:
- June 12, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 11:300 AM the first training Conscientious Objection. This will be via Zoom.
- June 19, 10:00 AM to 11:300 AM (also via Zoom) we’ll offer a second training session on how to advise and assist individuals wishing to become conscientious objectors
Individuals interested in the June 19th session must: a) attend the June 12 training session; and b) complete a separate 4-hr. asynchronous training session.
Q: How are you making this affordable to all?
Haverford Quarterly Meeting will pay for the costs of most training, with potential monetary assistance from other sources if more people than anticipated register for these sessions. Similar training will take place in the fall, for those interested who cannot attend in June.
To register for one or both training sessions and the 4-hr. asynchronous sessions, and to receive the accompanying on line manual, please contact me at email@example.com
Q: What are the workshops you plan?
Workshop one is primarily for Conscientious Objectors. It will discuss conscientious objection, outlining various CO positions, beliefs and actions, and explore the government definition of what qualifies under US law.
That workshop will include current policies regarding draft registration, and current proposals for changing it. We plan to cover those Selective Service and USCIS policies and procedures relevant to conscientious objectors, and outline the process for getting the government to recognize you as a conscientious objector.
This workshop also discusses how a conscientious objector can document their beliefs, and includes an exercise to help discern and clarify one’s position on war and violence.
The second workshop develops skillsets among Friends we call “Advisors to COs.” That could mean interested meeting members or teachers in Quaker schools and colleges.
This workshop will assume knowledge from the previous workshop. It will go into more detail about Selective Service procedures, and non-directive counseling.
It will cover registration enforcement and how registrants are chosen and processed to be drafted. It will also include details about processing deferments, exemptions and conscientious objectors, including how to appeal a denial. We will also discuss non-combatant military service, alternative service, what kinds of jobs are appropriate for conscientious objectors, and how COs are placed into jobs.
Q: Thank you Winnie. Anything else?
Yes! Email me to learn more. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
We are planning to replicate this at other dates in the fall for those interested who cannot attend in June. And, there are other members of our group! They are Craig Long, Steve Loughin and Bob Sutton.
The Photograph in this article is of men in a 1919 Fort Douglas, Utah, CO workcamp. Learn more from Swarthmore College’s Archives.