Library of Conscientious Objection
Statements of Conscientious Objection
to War and Participation in War

Conscientious Objection is a centuries-old and world-wide movement toward a citizen's "right not to kill" and bears witness to our human ability to invent new ways of doing things.  My hope is that this collection of statements will grow to include entries from men and women of all ages and all countries.  Every year more knowledge is accumulated about non-violent ways of resolving conflicts, so there is less and less excuse to resort to physically injuring others as a way of resolving disagreements.  This long-overdue change needs the thought power and heart power of each of us.  I invite you to study these statements, think about the issues involved and write a statement that expresses your own deepest thoughts and feelings about war and peace, conflict and cooperation, and a citizen's responsibilities. Please submit your statement for consideration by using the form located here.

Dennis Rivers, Editor            

2007: Army Lieutenant refuses to participate in war based on lies, cites responsibility under US constitution and international law (Lt. Ehren Watada is not a conscientious objector in traditional terms, but by arguing that an officer's oath to defend the Constitution precludes colluding in lies and fraud, he is redefining and extending the meaning of conscientious objection in significant ways.)

Sgt. Kevin Benderman's Journey of Conscience

Army Sergeant Refuses Return to Iraq 2-28-05  NPR AUDIO CLIP

The Nyack Declaration of Conscience and Courage (2005)

The Human Right of Conscientious Objection  -  U.N. Documents

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's 1967 speech at the Riverside Church

From Dr. King's 1967 speech:

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.


A Change of Heart: An Interfaith Guide to Conscientious Objection
manuscript-in-preparation of Dennis Rivers' new book.   Includes interfaith book of readings.

From A Change of Heart by Dennis Rivers:

A man in his 60's finally says what he could not find the words to say in 1964:  Based on my commitment to personal truthfulness, I cannot be silent about the consequences of organized killing on those who perform the organized killing.  For many soldiers, to participate in war is to commit emotional suicide.  I am convinced that all armies and all governments lie to their citizens about this and I refuse to participate in such lies.  Pinning a medal on someoneís uniform will not erase from that personís mind the faces of those whom they have killed.  As St. Paul says, we are all part of one another, therefore, I believe that when we deliberately injure others, or support the injury of others, or look away when others are being injured, we injure ourselves, and we injure our relationship with God, with life, and with all other people.  I believe that when we kill others, we kill a part of ourselves. Therefore, whenever and wherever possible, I will try to compassionately dissuade people from participating in or supporting organized killing, and I will do everything within my power to help people find peaceful resolutions to their conflicts. 


David Hartsough's 1959 Statement of Conscientious Objection
David Hartsough has been a peace activist for approximately half a century.  The statement linked here is the one he made to his Draft Board in 1959.  It is a classic example of Quaker peace witness, and expresses timeless truths.

Conscientious Objection resources, history, views, links, organizations