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Conscientious Objection


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MCO 1306.16F Conscientious Objectors (11 JUN 2013 )

MCO 1306.16F Conscientious Objectors (1.0 MB)

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4. Policy
b. The person seeking conscientious objector status bears the initial responsibility of presenting evidence which demonstrates a sincere opposition to war in any form based upon religious training and belief. Once this responsibility is met, conscientious objector status will be granted unless the Government can establish a rational basis in fact for denying the application. The claimant must request either separation based on conscientious objection (1-0) or assignment to noncombatant training and service based on conscientious objection (1-A-O).

c. A Marine who possesses qualifying beliefs which became fixed or crystallized before entering military service is not eligible for conscientious objector status. The Government bears the responsibility of demonstrating this disqualification.

d. The administrative discharge of Marines prior to completion of an obligated term of service is at the discretion of the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) based on the facts and circumstances of each case. If possible, after classification as a conscientious objector, a request for relief from, or restriction of, military duties will be approved.

e. Because of the personal and subjective nature of conscientious objection, the existence, honesty, and sincerity of asserted conscientious objector beliefs are difficult to determine using any set of rigid standards. Requests for discharge or assignment to noncombatant duties based on conscientious objection will, therefore, be handled on an individual basis with the final determination made per the facts and circumstances in the particular case and the policy and procedures set forth in this Order.

5. Criteria

a. The criteria set forth in this Order provide guidance in considering applications for separation or for assignment to noncombatant duties based on conscientious objection.

b. Consistent with the policy contained in the references and this Order, an application for classification as a conscientious objector may be approved for any individual:

(1) Who is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form;

(2) where opposition is founded on religious training and belief; and

(3) whose position is sincere and deeply held.

c. Religious Training and Belief

(1) The applicant may express the belief that forms the basis for the application on religious, moral, or ethical grounds. However expressed, this belief must be the primary controlling force in the applicant's life and must be of the same strength and depth as found in traditional religious convictions.

(2) The applicant must show that expediency or the avoidance of military service is not the basis of the claim. A primary factor is the sincerity with which the belief is held. Great care is needed in seeking to determine whether the asserted beliefs are honestly and genuinely held. Impartial evaluation of the applicant's thoughts and actions, both past and present, will help determine the sincerity of the claim. The applicant's actions in all aspects of life should be consistent with the stated beliefs.

(a) Therefore, in evaluating an application, the conduct of the applicant, in particular the outward manifestation of the beliefs asserted, will be carefully examined and given substantial weight.

(b) Relevant factors considered in determining an applicant's claim of conscientious objection include: training in the home and church; 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; credibility of the applicant; and credibility of persons supporting the claimant.

(3) Particular care must be exercised by individuals processing applications not to deny the existence of bona fide beliefs that are incompatible with their own.

(a) Church membership or adherence to particular theological tenets is not required to warrant separation or assignment to noncombatant training and service for conscientious objectors.

(b) Mere affiliation with a church or other group which advocates conscientious objection as a tenet of its creed is not necessarily determinative of an applicant's position or belief.

(c) Conversely, affiliation with a church or group which does not teach conscientious objection does not necessarily rule out adherence to conscientious objection beliefs in any given case.

(d) Where an applicant is or has been a member of a church, religious organization, or religious sect, and where the claim of conscientious objection is related to such membership, inquiry may properly be made as to the fact of membership, and the teaching of the church, religious organization, or religious sect, as well as the applicant's religious activity. However, the fact that the applicant may disagree with, or not subscribe to, some of the tenets of the church does not necessarily discredit the claim. The personal convictions of an individual will be controlling as long as they derive from the individuals moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

(e) Moreover, an applicant who is otherwise eligible for conscientious objector status may not be denied that status simply because the conscientious objection influences the views concerning the nations domestic or foreign policies. The task is to decide whether the beliefs professed are sincerely held and whether they govern the claimant's actions both in word and deed. A recommendation for denial of a claimant's application should be made when it can be determined that the sole basis for the claim rests upon political rather than religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.

d. An applicant claiming 1-0 status should not be granted 1-A-O status as a compromise. This does not prohibit the granting of 1-A-O status when the record makes it clear that such a status is appropriate, notwithstanding the Marines initial application.

e. The provisions of the Order will not be used to effect the administrative separation of a Marine who does not qualify as a conscientious objector or in lieu of other administrative separation procedures set forth in reference (a). A Marine determined not qualified for conscientious objector status, but whose separation would otherwise appear to be in the best interest of the Marine Corps, should be considered applicable for administrative separation under the provisions of reference (a). If a negative recommendation to the claimant's application for conscientious objector status is rendered, forwarding endorsements should not contain statements concerning the type of discharge the applicant desires or the previous nature of service.

6. Procedures

a. Marines seeking separation or assignment to noncombatant duties because of conscientious objection will submit an application requesting such action. The application will state whether they are seeking a discharge or assignment to noncombatant duties and will include the following items:

(1) The personal information required by enclosures (2) and (3) of this Order. Before providing this information, the Marine will be advised of the Privacy Act, and will read and sign enclosure (4) of this Order.

(2) Any other items which the Marine desires to submit in support of the case.

b. Before processing the application, the Marine will be advised of the provisions of reference (b) concerning Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and will be required to sign the statement appearing in enclosure (5) (VA benefits) of this Order.

c. The applicant shall be personally interviewed by a chaplain who shall submit a written opinion as to; (1) the nature and basis of the applicant's claim, and (2) the applicant's sincerity and depth of conviction. The chaplains report shall include specific reasons for the conclusions. In addition, the applicant will be interviewed by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist (or a physician if neither of the preceding is reasonably available) who shall submit a written report of psychiatric evaluation indicating the presence or absence of any psychiatric disorder which would warrant treatment or disposition through medical channels, or such personality disorder as to warrant recommendation for appropriate administrative action. These reports will become part of the application. If the applicant refuses to participate or is uncooperative or unresponsive in the course of the interviews, this fact will be included in the statement and report filed by the chaplain and clinical psychologist or psychiatrist (or physician).

d. The commander exercising Special Court-Martial jurisdiction over the applicant will appoint an officer in the grade of captain or higher, knowledgeable in the policies and procedures relating to conscientious objector matters, to investigate the applicant's claim. The investigating officer will not be an individual in the chain of command of the applicant. If the applicant is a commissioned officer, the investigating officer will be senior in both temporary and permanent grades to the applicant. Enclosure (6) is a sample Appointing Order.

e. The investigating officer will conduct the investigation, hold a hearing on the application, and prepare the investigative report. This report, along with the individuals application, administrative documents, the chaplains and doctors reports, and any other items submitted by the applicant will constitute the record of the case. The investigating officers recommendation will be based on the entire record and not merely on the evidence produced at the hearing. A copy of the investigating officers report will be provided to the applicant when the record is forwarded to the commander who appointed the investigating officer. The applicant will be informed of the right to submit a rebuttal to the report within 7 days. The first forwarding endorsement will include a statement from the applicant acknowledging receipt of a copy of the investigating officers report and will contain either a rebuttal to the report or a statement that no rebuttal will be submitted. Enclosure (7) is a guide to the investigating officer, and enclosure (8) is a sample Investigating Officers Report.
i. Processing of applications need not be stopped by the unauthorized absence of the applicant, by the institution of disciplinary action, or by administrative separation proceedings against the applicant. An applicant whose request for classification as a conscientious objector has been approved will not be discharged until disciplinary action has been resolved.

j. Until a final decision is made by the CMC (MM) every reasonable effort will be made to assign applicants to duties within the command which conflict as little as possible with their asserted beliefs. Applicants will conform to the normal requirements of the command and perform satisfactorily such duties as they may be assigned. Applicants may be disciplined for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) while awaiting action on their applications.

k. A Marine reservist who applies for conscientious objector status will not normally be ordered to involuntary active duty until the application is resolved. Proper resolution of the application is best accomplished within the Reserve unit. During the period of application the provisions of paragraph 7j above apply. If a reservist applies for conscientious objector status after notification of the commanding officers intent to recommend involuntary active duty, and in the commanding officers best judgment the application is without merit and simply a means to avoid involuntary active duty, the commanding officer may recommend to the CMC (RES) that the application be held in abeyance, and the Marine ordered to active duty. When the Marine reports as ordered, the application may be renewed and processed under this Order.

7. Classification

a. 1-0. An applicant requesting discharge, who is determined to be a 1-0 conscientious objector by the CMC (MM), will be discharged "For the Convenience of the Government" with an entry in the service record and on the discharge document reflecting the reason for separation as conscientious objection. The type discharge issued will be based on the applicant's service record, and the provisions of reference

(b). Pending separation, the applicant will continue to be assigned duties that provide the minimum practical conflict with the professed beliefs. The applicant will conform to the normal requirements of the command and perform satisfactorily those duties assigned. An applicant may be discharged for violations of the UCMJ while awaiting discharge per this Order, in addition to any other disciplinary measures deemed appropriate. An applicant who is awarded a punitive discharge or who is properly processed for another type of administrative discharge, while awaiting final action on a conscientious objector application, will be given the punitive or other administrative discharge as appropriate.

b. 1-A-0

(1) Applicants requesting assignment to noncombatant duties who are determined to be class 1-A-0 conscientious objectors will be reassigned to appropriate duties, as indicated below, or discharged at the discretion of the CMC. Applicants will execute the statement contained in enclosure (9) of this Order.

(2) Class 1-A-0 conscientious objectors, if retained in the service, will not be assigned to combat or combat support occupational fields. Instead, they will be assigned to appropriate duties, via on-the-job training, within the combat service support occupational fields.

(3) After receiving the appropriate military occupational speciality (MOS), conscientious objectors will be used in that MOS or in other duties consistent with the definition of noncombatant duties provided in this Order. Determination of these duties is the responsibility of the command to which the conscientious objector is assigned. Nothing in this Order precludes the assignment of conscientious objectors to Fleet Marine Force units, overseas, or in combat areas.

(4) The disposition of Marine officers classified as conscientious objectors will be determined by the CMC (MM).

c. Marines assigned noncombatant duties and those assigned normal duties, by reason of the disapproval of their application, will conform to the normal requirements of their command and perform assigned duties satisfactorily. Violations of the UCMJ by these members will be treated as in any other situation.

Each person seeking release from active service from the Marine Corps, or assignment to noncombatant duties, as a conscientious objector, will provide the following information in the format as shown below. The individual may submit such other information as desired.

A. General Information Concerning Applicant.

1. Full name

2. Social security number

3. Selective service number (if applicable)

4. Service address

5. Permanent home address

6. Name and address of each school and college attended (after age 16) together with the dates of attendance and the type of school (public, church, military, commercial, etc.).

7. A chronological list of all occupations, positions, jobs, or types of work, other than as a student in school or college (after age 16), whether for monetary compensation or not. Include the type of work, name of employer, address of employer, and the from/to date for each position or job held.

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

9. Parents names and address. 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 conscientious objector prior to entry into the Marine Corps? To which local board? What decision was made by the board, if known? If application was not made, explain why not.

12. When the applicant has served less than 180 days in the military service, a statement by the applicant as to whether the applicant is willing to perform work under the Selective Service System civilian work program for conscientious objector. Also a statement of the applicant as to whether the applicant consents to the issuance of an order for such work by the applicant's local Selective Service Board.

B. Training and Belief

1. A description of the nature of the belief which requires the applicant to seek separation from the Marine Corps or assignment to noncombatant training and duty for reasons of conscience.

2. An explanation as to how the applicant's 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.

3. An explanation as to when these beliefs became incompatible with military service, and why.

4. 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.

5. An explanation as to how the applicant's daily life style has changed as a result of the applicant's beliefs, and what future actions are planned to continue to support these beliefs.

6. An explanation as to what in the applicant's opinion most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of beliefs which gave rise to the claim.

C. Participation in Organizations

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

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

a. The name of the sect, and the name and location of its governing body or head, if known.

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

c. The name and location of any church, congregation, or meeting which the applicant customarily attends, and the extent of the applicant's active participation therein.

d. The name, title, and present address of the pastor or leader of such church, 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 sect or organization in relation to participation in war.

3. A description of applicant's relationship 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; e.g., letters, references, official statements, or organizations to which the applicant belongs or refers 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.