A new application form for conscientious objector (C.O.) status drew criticism this week from draft counsellors at the Divinity School.
The form, which was issued formally today for citizen comment, has been circulated unofficially by the Selective Service System (SSS) for two weeks among church groups. Included in the new form are 27 questions on the applicant's religious, moral, and political beliefs and affiliations, instead of the four questions posed by the former application.
Eight spaces for references to the sincerity of the applicant's belief are now provided, three more than in the old form.
The new form "comes damn close to establishing a state religion." Thomas Benedict, a second year Divinity student said Monday. Sixteen students and one faculty member have sent a letter attacking the form to Curtis W. Tarr, director of the SSS.
"The form is very unfair to people who don't hold traditional beliefs," Benedict said. "The state is trying to rule on religious belief. It says you have to show belief with acts. We believe you can have faith and faith alone," he said.
The new form attempts to "categorize" people by its specific questions, Benedict asserted. "The old C.O. form, while we are not completely happy with it, allows people to explain what they believe," he said.
The new application is an attempt to eliminate or reduce requests for C.O. classifications, Benedict said.
"It's going to take an incredibly long time for the applicants to go through the forms. It's going to be hard for local boards, too." Janis Greene, a Selective Service adviser in the Office of Graduate and Career Plans, said yesterday.
"I think that recent court decisions which are not reflected in the old form are responsible for the new one," she said.
Tarr, his principal deputy, the Massachusetts state draft director, and his principal deputy were all unavailable for comment on the Divinity School group's charges last night.
The SSS has not yet announced the effective date of the new form.
New regulations provide that on December 3, applicants for classification as C.O.'s and for deferment as hardship cases will have the right to personal appearances before their local boards prior to decisions on their cases. Those who appear before their cases are decided will lose the option of personal appeals to local boards after the decisions on their applications have been made.
Eighteen-year olds will be able to register for the draft between 30 days before and 30 days after their eighteenth birthdays.
The SSS announced last week that all registrants with 2-S (Student) deferments who were born before 1952 and whose lottery numbers are above 124 may drop to "second priority position" on January 1, 1972, if they waive their deferments by December 31. Registrants in this position are virtually assured of immunity from the draft