During the Vietnam War, many young Americans from 18-25 were drafted into the military until January 1, 1973, when the draft ended—though registration continued for many years afterwards. They could, if opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles, be considered a conscientious objector and be excused from military duty. All eligible men were legally required to carry their draft card with them at all times. Congress also adopted the Draft Card Mutilation Act of 1965 where it became a criminal offense knowingly to destroy or mutilate one’s draft card—and young men needed to carry and maintain their drafts cards in a presentable manner.
Today, an anti-vaccine--anti-mask American can just state, without evidence, they do not have to obtain a vaccine or wear a mask on religious grounds. This was not always the case.
If you were opposed to war on religious grounds in the 1960’s and 1970’s, these were the requirements for exemption. These qualifications are still present today and can be reviewed on the Selective Service System site.
1. All conscientious objectors are required to register with the Selective Service system.
2. Once a man gets a notice that he has been found qualified for military service, he has the opportunity to make a claim for classification as a conscientious objector (CO).
3. An objection is required to appear before his local draft board to explain his beliefs.
4. He may provide written documentation or include personal appearances by people he knows who can attest to this claims. His written statement might explain:
*how he arrived at his beliefs; and
*the influence his beliefs have had on how he lives his life.
(During the war, I had a roommate in college who applied for CO status. The local board added a few requirements to these which they were allowed to do—extensive written statement going back to elementary school, an investigation of his time in school and a review of any disciplinary action taken by school administrators, review of juvenile and adult criminal record, and at least three people who wrote letters and were willing attend the board hearing to attest this claims. In addition, questions were asked including “would you have been willing to fight against Nazi occupation of the U.S.?” My roommate was a true pacifist and ultimately granted CO status.
5. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man’s reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man’s lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.
I wonder how these so-called religious fundamentalists would make out today if these requirements were in place for anti-vax/anti-maskers.
Possible hypothetical for today’s consideration:
Religious Exemption from the COVID Vaccine and the Wearing of Masks Local Board
1. All anti-maskers and anti-vaccine objectors must register with this local board as an objector.
2. Once he or she receives notice of this registration, he or she has the opportunity to claim religious exemption.
3. An objection is required to appear before this local board to explain his/her beliefs.
4. He or she must provide written documentation or include personal appearances by people he/she knows who can attest to his/her claims. His/her written statement might explain:
*how they arrived at their beliefs,
*the influence his/her beliefs have had on how he/she lives their lives,
*have they ever received a vaccine before (e.g., smallpox, polio, measles)?,
*have they attended a rally where they have screamed, threatened others wearing masks or receiving the vaccine, physically harmed others, have a criminal record, or violated the norms of our society,
*since not taking the vaccine or wearing a mask may harm children, do they believe that harming the health of children is part of their religious beliefs? Please explain in a written essay of 500 words or more, and
5. All people granted religious exemptions must carry the official card at all times and not destroy or mutilate it under penalty or further criminal prosecution.
Of course, a man or woman may appeal a board’s decision to the district office.