David Hartsough, Quaker Peace Activist
1959 Statement of Conscientious Objection to Participation in War
Answers By One Conscientious Objector to Some of the Questions in the Selective Service Form #150: (September 1959)
I. Claim for Exemption:
b. “I am, by reason of my religious training and belief, conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form and I am further conscientiously opposed to participation in noncombatant training and service in the Armed Forces. I, therefore, claim exemption from both combatant and noncombatant training and service in the Armed Forces.”
II, Religious Training and Beliefs:
1. Do you believe in a Supreme Being? “Yes.”
2. Describe the nature of your belief which is the basis of your claim made in Series I above, and state whether or not your belief in a Supreme Being involves duties which to you are superior to those arising from any human relation.
“I believe in God as a pervading force in everything in the universe. Truth is God. Love is God. A kindly deed is God. A friendly smile is God. God is part of everything we do each day.
“I believe that there is that of God in every man regardless of race, creed, or nationality. Therefore, killing or even hating any man is injuring part of God himself. Just as I could not kill my brother, neither can I kill another human being (who is also my brother) on the other side of the world. Both are human beings created by God and given life by God. Who can give us the right to put an end to this wonderful creation of God, human life? Who can give us the right to cause suffering to the family of the man or men we kill?
“The age in which we now live is an age in which, if another war should occur, not only the lives of two or three men, or two or three armies, would be endangered, but the existence of the entire human race. If we are to survive, there is no question but that we need to look for a better way of solving world problems than the age-old, and now more than ever before, destructive method of war. I believe that if we put 1/10th of the effort into trying to build a peaceful and better understanding between nations that we spend on learning to kill other men, understanding could be reached. I must follow this conviction and try to live it even though, at present, my government does not agree with me.
“I believe in the power of love as the strongest force in the world. It is the ability to accept suffering rather than inflict suffering that can win over the world. Hatred and war do not solve problems; they just prolong and intensify them. Hatred breeds hatred, while love and understanding try to bring friendship and conciliation with the so-called 'enemy'.
We call ourselves a Christian nation, our coins state ‘in God we trust'. What has happened to our age-old teachings of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, ‘Love your enemies, Do good unto them that hate you’? Jesus said, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”’
“To me, killing or preparation for killing is a definite contradiction to love for my fellow men. I must ask myself the question, ‘To whom do I owe my highest loyalty?’ Do I owe it to my school, or to my local community, or to my country, and in the meantime ignore all the other people in the world? I feel that I owe my highest allegiance to the whole human race and to God. However, I feel that while my highest loyalty is to God and to the whole human race, it is at the same time the greatest loyalty I can give to my country. Therefore, I feel that I cannot kill or take any part in an organization whose purpose is to kill my mother, father, brother, teacher, my draft board official, or any human being created by God. Thus, I feel that I not only cannot take part in combatant service in the military forces, but also I cannot take part in noncombatant training and service in the armed forces, since the main purpose of the noncombatant (the medical corps) is to get the soldiers back on their feet and in the fighting ranks again as soon as possible.
“I have chosen the Conscientious Objector position because I want to give the most of myself I can for the furthering of the peace and goodwill among mankind. I am refusing to go into the army not because I don’t want to be killed, but be cause I cannot kill another person, a son of God.
“I believe that our whole draft system which trains young men to kill other human beings is wrong. I hope that in my alternative service I can do these things which will truly help toward and help create an atmosphere of peace in the world. I believe that those things which do help toward peace can only be done in a spirit of love and kindness toward all people.
“I am choosing the Alternative Service position rather than the non-registrant position because I want to make my protest in as positive and loving a way as possible. I hope and pray that our government will realize and take consideration that I, one U.S. citizen, feel that this law is wrong and am willing to spend my whole life in trying to win friends by love as opposed to violence.”
3. Explain how, when, and from whom or from what source you received the training and acquired the belief which is the basis of your claim made in Series I above.
“I was born the son of a minister and so from the start I was taught to practice love not only in word, but in deed in my daily life. Even when I was seven years old, and several fellows threw ice balls at me, and made my face bleed, I would not throw any back, but instead smiled at them. They did not throw any more at me, and afterward we became the best of friends. My parents were always very friendly and kind to me, and this was a wonderful background. We often had foreign visitors visit our home, and after making friends with them, it is hard to think in terms of killing them.
“In 1952 our family joined the Society of Friends and moved to the Philadelphia area, and ever since I have been in close contact with many Friends with whom I could discuss my beliefs. I have attended many American Friends Service Committee conferences and discussion groups in which there was a chance to talk and discuss with other students my beliefs and concerns, and to search for just what is the right path. I have also read Gandhi of India and his Non-violent struggle there; he has influenced me very much.
“In addition I have talked with many men in the army, including Army Recruiting Officers in order to try to understand both points of view. However, many men I have met who have been in the army did not like it and felt they would not go in if they were to do it over again.
“When H-bomb tests began, and especially after 1957, I felt this was grossly wrong, and have continuously done all I could to try to urge an agreement for the stopping of H-bomb tests. As I have grown to know more and more people, I have grown to appreciate people more and more, and to feel friends with all, and now my conscience directs that I can do no other, I cannot kill, Whatever is done to me, I must love.”
6. Describe the actions and behavior in your life which in your opinion most conspicu ously demonstrate the consistency and depth of your religious convictions.
“In the summer of 1958, I spent one and a half months on an American Friends Service Committee Peace Caravan with a group of international students in which we talked in churches, young people’s groups, service clubs, and groups of ministers trying to get people thinking about the question of peace, and what we as individual citizens can do for peace. We also presented the non-violent method as a way to solve international conflict rather than violence.
“This past summer, I was at a workcamp in Oriente, Cuba, helping rebuild 34 homes that were destroyed during the revolution and also helped build a hospital. This was, of course, without any monetary pay, but our pay was that we shared great friendship with the Cuban people. The purpose of the workcamp was to try to alleviate the suffering there and help make better international understanding and friendship.
“During the past three years, I have attended about 15 weekend workcamps in Philadelphia to work with people in the slum area there in trying to fix up and paint their homes. During the past two years, I have been leader of a World Affairs Discussion group of the young people of Concord Quarterly Meeting. During the past two years, I have also done all I could to urge agreement for a stop to H-bomb tests. I walked from Philadelphia to the U.N. in New York urging all nations to stop H-bomb tests, organized several walks from West Chester to Philadelphia, and for the past two and a half weeks, stood in prayer with a group of other people in front of Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland, asking for a stop to preparation for Germ Warfare, and instead to have the plant used for constructive uses. During the past several years, I have also sent as many letters as possible to Congressmen, our President, and Russian officials stating my views and concerns.”
IV, Participation in Organizations:
2.e. Describe carefully the creed or official statements of said religious sect or organization in relation to participation in war.
“The following are excerpts from statements by Friends Yearly Meetings:
‘The Religious Society of Friends, from its origin in the Seventeenth Century to the present time, has continuously held that war and Christianity are incompatible; and therefore as Christians, they cannot, under any circumstances, support or prepare for war.’
‘Christ demands of us that we adhere, without swerving, to the methods of love, and therefore if a seeming conflict should arise between the claims of His service and those of the state, it is to Christ that our supreme loyalty must be given, whatever the consequences. We would however, remember that whatever is our highest loyalty to God and humanity is at the same time the highest loyalty that we can render to our nation.
‘As members of a historic peace church we love our country and sincerely work for its highest welfare. True love for our country does not mean a hatred of others. It is our conviction that only the application of the principles of peace, love, justice, liberty, and international good-will will make for the highest welfare of our country; and the highest welfare of our country must harmonize with the highest welfare of humanity everywhere. Our faith is in security through love, protection through goodwill; and for such we are willing to make the necessary sacrifice. We are opposed to war as a method of settling disputes because it is unchristian, destructive of our highest values and sows the seeds of future wars, We feel that we are true patriots because we build upon the eternal principles of right which are the only foundation of stable government in our world community.’”
For an article about David Hartsough's recent work as one of the founders of the Nonviolent Peace Force, click here.