To the Editor of the Crimson:
May I make one correction in your editorial of Tuesday, October 15th, on the position of conscientious objectors under the Selective Service Act? The passage you quote as if it were part of the statue does not appear in the Act as it finally became law. The actual provision of the law recognizes as a conscientious objector "any person . . . who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form." It is not necessary for the objector, as you suppose, to be a member of any well recognized religious sect like the Quakers, whose creed or principles forbid participation in war. It is enough under the law if the man himself is opposed to war on religious grounds. He must of course convince the proper authorities of the sincerity of his belief in order to be assigned to nonmilitary service. The present law is wider than the War Draft Act, which expressly required membership in a pacifist sect.
The problem of the objector on humanitarian or other non-religious grounds is not covered by the law, but it would seem proper for a citizen to set forth such non-religious objections when he files his questionnaire. There is much important hard work to be done for the public welfare in other fields besides military training; and I hope that the government will find it possible to use conscientious objectors of all sorts in such badly needed tasks, although the law itself does not give this privilege to non-religious objectors.
I strongly urge every conscientious objector to register. Unless he does so, it will be practically impossible to ask the government to use the man's abilities and conscientious service in any way that will be helpful to his fellow countrymen.
Thank you for calling attention to the opportunity for consultation with the Faculty Civil Rights Committee. Its activities will continue after registration. Zechariah Chafee, Jr., Professor of Law.
The CRIMSON is also in receipt of letters from Livingston Hall, Professor of Law, and Raymond Dennett, Secretary of the Committee on Civil Rights.
Mr. Dennett's letter adds that "The provision allowing conscientious objectors, certified as such by local draft boards, to 'be assigned to work of national importance under civilian direction' clearly makes the 1940 law more liberal than that of 1917; for legal recognition is now granted to the person whose objection is not merely to combatant service but service under military direction which in any way contributes to the conduct of the war."
Professor Hall writes in part as follows: "You conclude that the conscientious objector who has informed himself 'as to the type of work involved in various jobs that will be thrust at him . . . is prepared to throw his full weight against the war system!' . . . Perhaps your conclusion means that it is the function of a conscientious objector to do all that he can to hinder and defeat war preparations by others. If so, I suggest that this is beyond the legitimate scope of the activities of a conscientious objector."