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Conscientious Objection


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AR 600-43 Conscientious Objection (16 MAY 2019)

AR 600-43 Conscientious Objection (16 MAY 2019) (921 KB)

Comments: To view or download the complete regulation, click on the link to it in the box above these comments.

Chapter 1


1–6. Policy

a. Personnel who qualify as conscientious objectors under this regulation will be classified as such, consistent with the effectiveness and efficiency of the Army. However, requests by personnel for qualification as a conscientious objector after entering military service will be denied when these requests are—

(1) Based on preexisting fixed beliefs held prior to enlistment, induction, or appointment. Requests will be denied when they are based on a claim of conscientious objection that existed and satisfied the requirements for classification as a conscientious objector pursuant to 50 USC, App 456(j), and other provisions of law when the applicant failed to request classification as a conscientious objector by the Selective Service before dispatch of the notice of induction, enlistment, or appointment. Claims based on conscientious objection growing out of experiences before entering military service, which did not become fixed until after the person’s entry into the service, will be considered.

(2) Based on the same grounds as a previously denied Selective Service System request. Requests will be denied when they are based solely on conscientious objection claimed and denied on their merits by the Selective Service System before induction when application under this regulation is based on substantially the same grounds, or supported by substantially the same evidence as the request that was denied under the Selective Service System.

(3) Claims of erroneous processing by the Selective Service System will be processed according to DODI 1300.06.

(4) Based solely upon policy, pragmatism, or expediency. Applicants who are otherwise eligible for conscientious objector status may not be denied that status simply because of their views on the nation’s domestic or foreign policies.

(5) Based solely upon considerations of political, sociological, or philosophical views, or a merely personal code.

(6) Based on objection to a specific war.

(7) Based upon insincerity.

  • (a) Determining sincerity. The most important consideration is not whether applicants are sincere in wanting designation as a conscientious objector, but whether their asserted convictions are sincerely held. Sincerity is determined by an impartial evaluation of each person’s thinking and living in totality, past and present. The conduct of persons, in particular their outward manifestation of the beliefs asserted, will be carefully examined and given substantial weight in evaluating their application. This requires that the Investigating Officer conduct a careful examination of the applicant’s conduct and the outward manifestation of the applicant’s asserted beliefs, and that each reviewing official closely examine the application and supporting documentation. Each should compare the applicant’s general demeanor, pattern of conduct, behavior, activities, and the rigor of their studies before and after the crystallization of the applicant’s beliefs. The application should contain enough evidence to validate the asserted beliefs of the applicant, including any change or crystallization in beliefs. Failure to adequately demonstrate or substantiate that their asserted beliefs govern the applicant’s actions in word and deed will result in denial of the application. The applicant’s life should demonstrate the consistency and depth of their beliefs. Care must be exercised in determining the integrity of the applicant’s beliefs and actions. Ideally, applicant’s statements and actions will reveal views and actions strong enough to demonstrate that expedience or avoidance of military service is not the basis of the applicant’s claim. Lifestyles found to be inconsistent or incongruent with the applicant’s asserted beliefs indicate insincerity of belief.
  • (b) Relevant decision factors. Relevant factors that should be considered in determining a person’s claim of conscientious objection include training in the home and religious organizations; general demeanor and pattern of conduct; participation in religious activities; whether ethical or moral convictions were gained through training, study, contemplation, or other activity comparable in rigor and dedication to the processes by which traditional religious convictions are formulated; the credibility of the applicant; and the credibility of persons supporting the claim.
  • (c) Mitigating factors warranting further inquiry. Applicants may have sought release from the Army through several means simultaneously, or in rapid succession (medical or hardship discharge). They may have some major commitments during the time their beliefs were developing that are inconsistent with their claim. They may have applied for conscientious objector status shortly after becoming aware of the prospect of undesirable or hazardous duty or having been rejected for a special program. The timing of their application alone, however, is never enough to furnish a basis in fact to support a disapproval. These examples serve merely as indicators that further inquiry as to the person’s sincerity is warranted. Recommendations for disapproval should be supported by additional evidence beyond these indicators.

b. Beliefs which substantiate a conscientious objection claim may be based on the teachings of an existing religious tradition, based on deeply held moral or ethical beliefs, or a mixture thereof. Collectively these are called “religious training and/or belief” which are defined as a belief in an external power or being or deeply held moral or ethical belief, to which all else is subordinate or upon which all else is ultimately dependent, and which has the power or force to affect moral well-being. The external power or “being” need not be one that has found expression in either religious or societal traditions. However, it should sincerely occupy a place of equal or greater value in the life of its possessor. Deeply held moral or ethical beliefs should be valued with the strength and devotion of traditional religious conviction. The term “religious training and/or belief” may include solely moral or ethical beliefs even though the applicant may not characterize these beliefs as “religious” in the traditional sense, or may expressly characterize them as not religious. The term “religious training and/or belief” does not include a belief that rests solely upon considerations of policy, pragmatism, expediency, or political views.

c. Care must be exercised not to deny the existence of beliefs simply because those beliefs are incompatible with one’s own. Church membership or adherence to certain theological tenets are not required to warrant separation or assignment to noncombatant training and service. Mere affiliation with a church or other group that advocates conscientious objection as a tenet of its creed does not necessarily determine a person’s position or belief. Conversely, affiliation with a church group that does not teach conscientious objection does not necessarily rule out adherence to conscientious objection beliefs. Applicants may be or may have been a member of a church, religious organization, or religious sect; the claim of conscientious objection may be related to such membership. If so, inquiry may be made as to their membership, the teaching of their church, religious organization or sect, as well as their religious activity. However, the fact that these persons may disagree with, or not subscribe to, some of the tenets of their church does not necessarily discredit their claim. The personal convictions of each person will dominate so long as they derive from the person’s moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. The task is to decide whether the beliefs professed are sincerely held and whether they govern the claimant’s actions in word and deed.

d. The burden of establishing a claim of conscientious objection as grounds for separation or assignment to noncombatant training and service is on the applicant. To this end, applicants must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the nature or basis of the claim comes within the definition of criteria prescribed in this regulation for conscientious objection and that their beliefs in connection to the claim are firm, fixed, sincere and deeply held. Applicants have the burden of determining and setting forth the exact nature of the request; that is, whether they request separation based on conscientious objection (1–O) or reassignment to noncombatant training and service based on conscientious objection (1–A–O).

e. An applicant claiming 1–O status will not be granted 1–A–O status as a compromise. Similarly, discharge will not be recommended for those who apply for classification as a noncombatant 1–A–O.

f. This regulation will not be used to effect the administrative separation of persons who do not qualify as conscientious objectors. Nor will it be used instead of administrative separation procedures such as those provided for unsatisfactory performance, substandard performance of duty, or misconduct, or as otherwise set forth in other Army regulations (AR 600–8–24 or AR 635–200). Under no circumstances will administrative separation of these persons be effected based on this regulation.

g. This regulation does not prevent the administrative elimination, according to law and Army regulations, of any person whose performance of duty after reclassification as a 1–A–O conscientious objector is substandard or who exhibits another basis for elimination.


Chapter 2

Applying for Conscientious Objector Status

2–1. Application

a. Military personnel who seek either discharge or assignment to noncombatant duties because of conscientious objection will submit an application on DA Form 4187 (Personnel Action) to their immediate commanding officer. Applicants will indicate whether they are seeking discharge or assignment to noncombatant duties. Applications must also include all of the personal information required by appendix B, and any other information the applicant desires to submit. Completion of the foregoing constitutes a formal application. Personnel will date and sign the DA Form 4187 and each enclosure. …

2–3. Interviewing applicants

a. The interviewing chaplain may be from any component of the Armed Forces but not assigned to an Active Control Group or Inactive Control Group.

(1) Before interviewing applicants, the chaplain will advise them that any communication between the applicant and the chaplain will not be privileged since a detailed report of the interview will become a part of the application for consideration in the adjudication process. Thus, if the applicant has established a relationship of confidentiality (counseling) with a chaplain, a different chaplain will conduct the interview. This provision does not prevent an applicant from soliciting a letter to support the claim from anyone they choose.

(2) The interviewing chaplain will submit a detailed report of the interview to the commander. This report will include comments on the following:

  • (a) Nature and basis of the applicant’s claim.
  • (b) Opinion on the source of the beliefs.
  • (c) Sincerity and depth of conviction.
  • (d) Appropriate comments of the applicant’s demeanor and lifestyle as they bear on the claim.
  • (e) Specific reasons for the chaplain’s conclusions.
  • (f) If the interviewing chaplain feels that the applicant is insincere in their beliefs or their lifestyle is incongruent with the claim, statements to this effect should be documented in this report.
  • (g) If the applicant refuses to be interviewed by a chaplain, the chaplain will submit a report explaining the circumstances. Appropriate comments on the applicant’s demeanor as it bears on the claim will be included.
  • (h) No recommendation for approval or disapproval of the application will be made by the chaplain.

b. The applicant will also be interviewed by a psychiatrist (or other medical officer if a psychiatrist is not available) who may be from any component of the Armed Forces. The psychiatrist will submit a mental status examination report indicating the presence or absence of any psychiatric disorder that would warrant treatment or disposition through medical channels, or such a personality disorder as to warrant recommendation for appropriate administrative action. No information obtained from the applicant, during the evaluation, or any matter derived from the evaluation, will be made avail-able outside medical channels except as needed for processing the applicant for further mental evaluation or discharge for medical reasons. Results of the evaluation will be recorded on DA Form 3822 (Report of Mental Status Evaluation). The form will be annotated in the remarks section to reflect that the applicant has applied for conscientious objector status. Upon completion, this form will be given to the applicant’s commander to become part of the application. If the applicant refuses mental evaluation or is uncooperative or unresponsive during the interview, this fact will be included in the report. The psychiatrist or medical officer will make no recommendation for approval or disapproval of the application.


2–5. Conducting investigations

a. The investigating officer will conduct a hearing on the application. The applicant will be notified in writing as to the time and place the hearing will be held. The applicant’s receipt of the notice should be acknowledged by their signature and the date of the receipt on the letter of notification. A copy of the notification will be attached to the hearing record.

b. The hearing may be delayed for good cause at the applicant’s request. However, if the applicant fails to appear at the stated time and place for the hearing, the applicant will be deemed to have waived their appearance and the investigating officer may proceed in the applicant’s absence. If the applicant fails to appear through no fault of their own, the hearing will be rescheduled.

c. The applicant may not wish a hearing on their application. If so, the applicant may waive their right to a hearing by executing a statement to the effect at figure 2–5.

d. The execution of a waiver of a hearing does not waive the requirement for an investigating officer. Regardless of the desires of the applicant, an investigating officer will be appointed to comply with the requirements described in this regulation.

e. The purpose of the hearing is to—

(1) Give the applicant an opportunity to present any evidence he or she desires to support the application.

(2) Enable the investigating officer to ascertain and assemble all relevant facts.

(3) Create a comprehensive record that aids the investigating officer and other decision makers in arriving at informed recommendations.

f. At the beginning of the hearing, the investigating officer will require the applicant to acknowledge their understanding of the nature of the hearing, as stated in figure 2–6, by signing and dating the same.

g. The hearing will be informal. It will not be governed by the rules of evidence employed by a court–martial, except that all oral testimony presented will be under oath or affirmation. Any failure or refusal by the applicant to submit to questioning under oath or affirmation before the investigating officer may be considered in the recommendation and evaluation of the applicant’s claim. Any relevant evidence may be received. However, statements obtained from persons not present at the hearing need not be notarized or sworn. The use of DA Form 1574–1 (Report of Proceedings by Investigating Officer) in the conduct of the hearing is not recommended. The hearing is not an adversarial proceeding.

h. The applicant may submit any additional evidence desired, including sworn and unsworn statements. They may also present any witnesses, but must secure their attendance. The installation or local commander will render all reasonable assistance in making available military members of the command requested by the applicant as witnesses. Further, the applicant will be permitted to question any other witnesses who appear and to examine all items in the file. A chaplain may feel that their appearance might lead to a violation of AR 165–1. If so, the investigating officer will not require a chaplain, other than the interviewing chaplain (see para 2–3a), to appear at a hearing.

i. If the applicant desires, they are entitled to be represented by counsel at no expense to the Government. Counsel will be allowed to attend and participate in all hearings and to assist the applicant in presentation of the case. Counsel will also be allowed to examine all items in the case file.

j. A verbatim record of the hearing is not required; however, if the applicant desires such a record and agrees to provide it at their own expense, they may do so. If the applicant elects to provide such a record, a copy will be made available to the investigating officer, at no expense to the Government, at the conclusion of the hearing. In the absence of a verbatim record, the investigating officer will summarize the testimony of witnesses. The investigating officer will permit the applicant or counsel to examine the summaries and note, for the record, the differences with the investigating officer’s sum-mary. Copies of statements and other documents received in evidence will be made a part of the hearing record. The investigating officer will authenticate the hearing record.

k. At the end of the investigation, the investigating officer will prepare a written report in 4 copies. The report will contain the items below—

(1) A statement as to whether the applicant appeared, was accompanied by counsel, and, if so, the latter's identity, and whether the nature and purpose of the hearing were explained to the applicant and understood.

(2) A properly executed statement of understanding (see fig 2–6).

(3) A properly executed statement of waiver if the applicant chose to waive their right to a hearing by the investigating officer (see fig 2–5).

(4) Any documents, statements, and other material received in evidence during the investigation.

(5) Summaries of the testimony of the witnesses presented (or a verbatim record of the testimony if such record was made).

(6) A statement of the investigating officer’s conclusions as to—

(a) The underlying basis of the applicant’s professed conscientious objection (what applicant believes, and why).

(b) The time period (being as specific as possible) in which the applicant’s belief became fixed.

(c) Whether the belief constitutes conscientious objection (1–O or 1–A–O) under this regulation.

(d) The sincerity of the applicant, including reasons for such conclusions.(7) The investigating officer’s recommendation for disposition of the case. Reasons (basis in fact and not conjecture) for the recommendations will be included. The actions recommended will be limited to the following:

  • (a) Denial of any classification as a conscientious objector.
  • (b) Classification as 1–A–O conscientious objector.
  • (c) Classification as 1–O conscientious objector.

(8) In 1–O application cases, the investigating officer will not recommend a classification of (1–A–O) unless the applicant has indicated a willingness to remain on active duty in a noncombatant role. If such an indication is present, the investigating officer should obtain a written statement from the applicant that affirms the willingness to serve.

(9) In 1–A–O application cases, the investigating officer will not recommend discharge (1–O) since the applicant has stated a willingness to serve as a noncombatant. This willingness shows that the applicant does not object to participation in war in any form.

l. The investigating officer’s conclusions and recommended disposition will be based on the entire record, not merely on the evidence produced at the hearings.

m. The investigating officer’s report along with the applicant’s application, all interviews with chaplains and doctors, evidence received as a result of the hearing, and any other items submitted by the applicant to support the application make up the case record. A copy of the case record will be forwarded to the applicant at the same time that the original is forwarded to the commander who appointed the investigating officer. The applicant has the right to submit a rebuttal statement to the record within 10 calendar days. After receipt of the record, the applicant will complete the statement acknowledging rebuttal rights as prescribed in figure 2–7, along with a rebuttal statement, when appropriate. The applicant will deliver the statement(s) to their immediate unit commander within 10 days of their receipt of the record. The head-quarters of the appointing commander will return the case record without comment to the applicant’s immediate commander for the information required by paragraph 2–6a.


2–10. Use, assignment, and training

a. Except as provided in paragraph 2–10b, applicants who have submitted applications will be retained in their unit and assigned duties providing minimum practicable conflict with their asserted beliefs, pending a final decision on their applications (see para 2–1). Reassignment orders received after the submission of an application will be delayed until the approval authority makes a final determination. In the case of trainees, they will not be required to train in the study, use, or handling of arms or weapons. The trainee is not precluded from taking part in those aspects of training that do not involve the bearing or use of arms, weapons, or munitions. Except for this restriction, conscientious objector applicants are subject to all military orders and discipline, and regulations to include those on training.

b. In the case of second and later applications, the duty limitations of paragraph 2–10a will not apply if the applicant’s immediate commander determines that the application is substantially the same as a previously disapproved application. However, the provisions of paragraph 2–9 still apply.

c. Guidelines for Soldiers submitting an application for conscientious objection is as follows:

(1) A Soldier assigned or attached to a unit deploying to a new duty station (new duty location is the final destination of the deploying unit) may submit an application for conscientious objector status. The Soldier’s submission of a conscientious objector application will not preclude the Soldier from deploying with their unit. The unit will process the application as operational mission requirements permit. The Soldier will prepare for deployment and deploy with the unit unless the application for conscientious objector status has been approved by the approving authority designated in paragraph 2–8a. In cases where a Soldier’s application has been forwarded to ARBA, the commander exercising GCMCA over the Soldier may, in their discretion, excuse the Soldier from deployment, pending decision of the DASA (RB).

Comments: ARBA is the Army Review Boards Agency. DASA (RB) is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Review Boards).

(2) A Soldier who received individual orders for reassignment prior to submission of conscientious objector application or a Soldier who has departed their unit of assignment in compliance with individual reassignment orders may not apply for conscientious objector status until they arrive at the new permanent duty station. The foregoing does not apply to Soldiers who are on temporary duty en route on assignment orders for a period in excess of 8 weeks. These Soldiers may apply at their temporary duty location.

d. When a request for conscientious objector status has been denied, the person—

(1) Will comply with reassignment orders, and

(2) May be assigned to any duties, or

(3) May be required to participate in any type of training.

e. In the case of Reserve Component personnel not on active duty, the submission of an application after the date the applicant’s orders are published announcing a reporting date for active duty or ADT is not a basis for delay in reporting for designated duty. If a person is ordered to report to active duty or ADT while an application is being processed and they are advised that final action cannot be made before the reporting date for duty, they must comply with these orders. In such instance, the application will be forwarded to the proper Regular Army GCMCA for processing.

f. IRR members who have been ordered to active duty may submit an application for conscientious objector status at their mobilization site. Submission of an application will not preclude further assignment or deployment. Upon departure from the mobilization site, the Soldier will hand carry the application packet if it has not been forwarded to ARBA. If application has been forwarded to ARBA, the Soldier’s forwarding address (if known) will be included.

g. Notwithstanding the retention requirements stated above, an application for conscientious objector status will be transferred to the gaining commander for appropriate action. This is true for an application submitted by a Soldier who is confined as a result of a court–martial sentence and transferred to a correctional holding detachment according to AR 190–47.


Appendix B

Personal Information that Must be Included in Application

B–1.Application information

In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC 552a), as implemented by AR 25–22, applicants will be advised as outlined in paragraph 2–2a. The Privacy Act form will be signed and become part of the record (see fig 2–2). Also, the following will be provided:

a. General information.

(1) Full name.

(2) DOD ID number.

(3) Selective Service number (if applicable).

(4) Service address and component (RA, USAR, and ARNG).

(5) Home of Record, and permanent home address if different.

(6) Name and address of each school and college attended together with dates of attendance, and the type of school (public, church, military, and commercial).

(7) A chronological list of all occupations, positions, jobs, or types of work, other than as a student in school or college, whether for monetary compensation or not. Include the type of work, name of employer, address of employer, and the rom and to date for each position or job held.

(8) All former addresses (after age 16) and dates of residence at those addresses.

(9) Parent’s names and addresses. Indicate whether they are living or deceased.

(10) The religious denomination or sect of both parents.

(11) Was application made to the Selective Service System (local board) for classification as a conscientious objector before entry into the Armed Forces? If so, to which local board? What decision, if any, that was made by the board, if known?

(12) Was any previous application made in service for classification as a conscientious objector? If so, for which status (1–O or 1–A–O)? Where and when was application made? What was the final determination? Attach a copy of the previous application(s), if any.

(13) During conscription, when the person has served less than 180 days in the Armed Forces, a statement is required by the applicant as to whether they are willing to perform work under the Selective Service Alternative Service Program for Conscientious Objectors if the applicant is eventually discharged as a conscientious objector. Also required is a statement of the applicant as to whether they consent to the issuance of an order for such work by the local Selective Service board.

b.Training and belief.

(1) An express, specific statement as to whether the person requests classification as a conscientious objector (1–0), or as a conscientious objector (1–A–O).

(2) A description of the nature of the belief that requires the person to seek separation from the military service or assignment to noncombatant training and duty for reasons of conscience.

(3) An explanation as to how their beliefs changed or developed, to include an explanation as to what factors (how, when, and from whom or from what source training received and belief acquired) caused the change in or development of conscientious objection beliefs.

(4) An explanation as to when these beliefs become incompatible with military service and why.

(5) An explanation as to the circumstances, if any, under which the applicant believes in the use of force, and to what extent, under any foreseeable circumstances.

(6) An explanation as to how the applicant’s daily lifestyle has changed as a result of their beliefs and what future actions they plan to continue to support their beliefs.

(7) An explanation as to what in the applicant’s opinion most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of their beliefs that gave rise to their claim.

c. Participation in organizations.

(1) Information as to whether the applicant has ever been a member of any military organization or establishment before entering upon their present term of service. If so, the name and address of such organization will be given together with reasons why they became a member.

(2) A statement as to whether the applicant is a member of a religious organization or tradition. If so, the statement will show the following:

(a) The name of the organization or tradition, and the name and location of its governing body or head, if known.

(b) When, where, and how the applicant became a member of the said organization or tradition.

(c) The name and location of any religious organization, congregation, or meeting that the applicant customarily at-tends; the extent of the applicant’s participation therein.

(d) The name, title, and present address of the pastor or leader of such religious organization, congregation, or meeting.

(e) A description of the creed or official statements, if any, and if they are known to the applicant, of said religious organization or tradition in relation to participation in war.

(3) A description of the applicant’s relationships with and activities in all organizations with which the applicant is or has been affiliated, other than military, political, or labor organizations.

d. References. Any additional information such as letters of reference or official statements of organizations to which the applicant belongs or refers to in the application, that the applicant desires to be considered by the authority reviewing the application. The burden is on the applicant to obtain and forward such information.


B–2. Additional information

Each person seeking a discharge from the Army (1–O), or assignment to noncombatant duties (1–A–O), as a conscientious objector under this regulation, will provide the information indicated above as the minimum required for consideration of their request. However, ARBA may require such additional information as it deems proper. The person may submit such other information, as desired.