The Law: Who's Sincere?

Americans have long respected those whose moral convictions forbid them to bear arms against their fellow men. When it comes to military conscription, though, the legal question is how to set a standard that exempts only sincere conscientious objectors—not mere draft dodgers.

In World War I, the draft law exempted from combat only members of "peace churches," like Quakers. But since World War II, C.O.s have increasingly challenged the requirement of formal religious beliefs and practices. In the 1965 case of U.S. v. Seeger, the Supreme Court held that objectors need not believe in...

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