Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Discerning & Documenting a Conscientious Objector Claim

Workshop Number: 
Curt Torell
Who may register?: 
Open to All
Experiential Activities: 
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

Workshop timeslot: Sunday (June 27) - three 90-minute sessions
Audio-only participation?: Yes

This workshop is for teens and their meetings to support a claim as a conscientious objector within current Selective Service regulations.  It is for two simultaneous groups:  teens (men and women) exploring conscientious objection and for post-18-year-old adults—parents, mentors, FDS leaders—to adapt this curriculum for their meeting.

Workshop Description

I.  Introduction:


This country currently has no draft, yet Selective Service is very much alive and well, operating largely behind the scenes.  Very few 18-year-old men (or women) realize that their requirement to register with Selective Service happens automatically in over 45 states when signing up for a driver’s license! Registration is simply “out of sight and out of mind.”  So too is any consideration about conscientious objection.  Yet, if “a national emergency” suddenly triggered a draft, young Friends, unprepared, could have as little as 9 days to discern and claim a conscientious objector exemption.


The purpose of this workshop is to discern, decide, and document a position as a conscientious objection within the current Selective Service system.


In particular, it is offered for two simultaneous groups.  The first and primary is for teens (both young men and women) exploring conscientious objection.  For them, the workshop is rooted in personal responses to nonviolence and the peace testimony.  Ultimately, teens so inclined would write a “CO letter” declaring their beliefs.  This workshop is both a safeguard AGAINST a potential draft and also a lifetime groundwork FOR peace.


The second group is for post-18-year-old adults—parents, grandparents, meeting mentors, FDS leaders—to adapt this curriculum for their meeting and make this peace witness an integral part of their spiritual community.


The curriculum is based on a 200+ page publication by Quaker House, Conscientious Objection:  Is This for You? written by Curt.  It contains agendas, exercises, worksheets, reference materials, readings, Biblical passages, and procedures that lead both to spiritual discernment and to practical documentation.  Whether a young person (male or female) decides to go this route or not, searching within one’s soul about the peace testimony and personal participation in war should be considered by all 18-year-olds, especially when they are automatically registered with Selective Service.


II.  Expectations and Objectives:

  1. Learn about Selective Service, the draft, the peace testimony, and conscientious objection.
  2. Discern and decide about a declaration as a conscientious objector, i.e., not an easy task but the guided activities provide a path.
  3. Document a CO claim.
  4. Transfer the curriculum from this workshop to participants’ home meetings.


III.  Specific areas or topics:

The three 90-minutes sessions include:

Getting started and acquainted, building trust and boundaries, presenting basic information and worksheets, interactive and exploratory exercises, and journaling.

Exploring beliefs, spiritual deepening, more engaging activities, sharing, discerning, and outlining a CO letter.

Testing beliefs through a mock draft board role play, and then processing.

Declaring, articulating, and documenting beliefs through a CO letter.

Reading letters, hearing feedback, bringing this to your faith community.


Some of the interactive activities include:

Could you chant this at boot camp then do it later?

Violence vs. nonviolence brainstorming

Could you-Would you?  Some real-life military decisions.

Worksheet Form 22: SS claim for conscientious objection

Mock draft board role playing with sample questions

Writing a "CO letter"


IV.  Format:

This can be done in person or online; 1 person or 100 people; teens and older adults.

The method combines:

  1. Instructive with Power Point slides, detailed handouts, and some lecture on materials.
  2. Experiential with activities, simulations, worksheets, role plays, journaling, and letter writing.
  3. Interactive with time for discussion, discernment, and personal documentation.


A.  Daily worship

          Settling in before each session.  Other spiritual grounding in silent worship, worship sharing, and programmed activities focusing on “Way Will Open” with the ultimate goal of writing a CO letter that articulates one’s deepest beliefs regarding the peace testimony.


B.  Writing and interactive activities

          Responses to a number of queries, reactions to exercises and discussion, and journaling.  All of these culminating in a “CO letter.”


C.  Handouts will be provided.

Several handouts are needed during the workshop, including a guided Workshop Journal, activites, exercises, and resource materials.  The workshop leader will send them out prior to the workshop.  Nothing has be read beforehand.  Since the handouts are from the book, some participants may wish to purchase the full 200+ page curriculum, $15 through Quaker House or Amazon (the author receives no proceeds).