A moderate Baptist leader has pledged to engage in civil disobedience should the United States reinstate a military draft.
Religion News Service reported Tuesday that the Selective Service System had asked the Church of the Brethren to dust off its long-standing “alternative service” programs that allow conscientious objectors to serve in two-year domestic service projects in lieu of military service.
“Mark my words–the day this administration re-institutes a compulsory draft that could force my children to serve in its unjust, pre-emptive war in Iraq, will be the day that I begin devoting every free, waking moment to some form of peaceful, civil disobedience,” Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists responded in a Wednesday blog.
Brethren leaders decided to follow through on a request from the Selective Service to have “alternative service” programs in place for conscientious objectors if a draft is reinstated. The decision followed a series of meetings prompted by an unannounced visit by a draft official to a church center in Maryland last October.
Church officials worried that the visit indicated that a new draft might be at hand. Selective Service officials insisted there are no plans to reinstate a draft and claimed the alternative service director stopped by the Brethren Service Center because she was in the area.
Both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have said they oppose a draft. In October Congress voted 402-2 to kill a bill to re-implement a draft.
Rep. Charles Rangel proposed the bill in January 2003. Rangel, a New York Democrat, said he had two purposes: to jolt people into realizing the seriousness of launching a pre-emptive war in Iraq, which he opposed, and to ensure equitable representation of people making sacrifices.
The U.S. had a military draft in place between 1948 and 1973. It became controversial during the Vietnam War, prompting many young men to flee to Canada and elsewhere to avoid being drafted and violent protests on college campuses.
Since 1980, the Selective Service System has required men 18 to 26 to register to give the government a pool of men it could draw from in case troops were needed in an emergency.
A government Web site says defeat of Rangel’s bill proves that Selective Service has not been directed to reinstate a draft, which would require congressional support.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.