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a. A Service member may be granted an administrative separation, or restriction of military duties, due to conscientious objection before completing his or her obligated term of service based on the Service member’s respective Military Department’s judgment of the facts and circumstances in the case.
b. A Service member who possessed conscientious objection beliefs before entering military service is not eligible for such classification if such beliefs satisfied the requirements for classification as a conscientious objector pursuant to Section 3806(j) of Title 50, United States Code (U.S.C.), also known as the Military Selective Service Act, and other provisions of law, and:
- (1) The applicant failed to request classification by the Selective Service System; or
- (2) The application is based upon the same grounds, or supported by the same evidence, as a request that was denied by the Selective Service System.
c. Nothing contained in this issuance renders ineligible for classification as a conscientious objector a member of the Military Services who possessed conscientious objector beliefs before entering military service if:
- (1) Such beliefs crystallized after receipt of an induction notice.
- (2) The applicant could not request classification by the Selective Service System because of regulations prohibiting the submission of such requests after receipt of an induction notice.
d. Due to the personal and subjective nature of conscientious objection, the existence, honesty, and sincerity of asserted conscientious objections cannot be determined by applying inflexible objective standards and measurements on an “across-the-board” basis.
e. A Request for discharge or assignment to non-combatant training or service based on conscientious objection will be handled on an individual basis with the final determination made at the headquarters of the Military Department concerned in accordance with the policy and procedures found in this issuance.
SECTION 3: CRITERIA
3.1. GENERAL INFORMATION. The criteria set forth herein provide policy and guidance in considering applications for separation or for assignment to non-combatant training and service based on conscientious objection. Consistent with the national policy to recognize the claims of authentic conscientious objectors in the Military Services, an application for classification as a conscientious objector may be approved, subject to the limitations of this issuance, for any individual:
a. Who is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.
b. Whose opposition is based on a moral, ethical, or religious belief.
c. Whose position is firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.
3.2. RELIGIOUS, MORAL, OR ETHICAL BELIEF.
a. A Service member’s objection may be founded on religious training or belief; it may also be based on personal beliefs that are purely moral or ethical in source or content and occupy to the Service member a place parallel to that filled by more traditional religious convictions. To determine if an applicant’s moral or ethical beliefs oppose participation in war in any form and are held with the strength of traditional religious convictions, the applicant must show that these moral and ethical convictions:
- (1) Have directed the applicant’s life in the way traditional religious convictions of equal strength, depth, and duration have directed the lives of those whose beliefs are clearly found in traditional religious convictions.
- (2) Are the primary controlling force in the applicant’s life.
b. A primary factor to be considered is the sincerity with which the religious, moral, or ethical belief is held. Great care must be exercised in seeking to determine whether asserted beliefs are honestly and genuinely held.
- (1) Sincerity is determined by an impartial evaluation of the applicant’s thinking and living in its totality, past and present.
- (2) Care must be exercised in determining the integrity of beliefs and the consistency of the application.
c. Information presented by the applicant must be sufficient to convince that the Service member’s personal history reveals views and actions strong enough to demonstrate that expediency or avoidance of military service is not the basis of the applicant’s claim.
- (1) When the Service evaluates applications, the member’s conduct, in particular the outward manifestation of the beliefs asserted, will be carefully examined and given substantial weight. Relevant factors that should be considered in determining an applicant's claim of conscientious objection include:
(a) Training in the home and religious organization.
(b) General demeanor and pattern of conduct.
(c) Participation in religious activities.
(d) Ethical or moral convictions gained through training, studying, contemplation, or other activity comparable in rigor and dedication to the processes by which traditional religious convictions are formulated.
(e) Credibility of the applicant and persons supporting the claim.
- (2) Particular care must be exercised not to deny the existence of authentic beliefs simply because those beliefs are incompatible with the reviewing authority’s belief system.
(a) A membership of a religious organization or adherence to particular theological tenets is not required to warrant administrative separation or assignment to non-combatant training and service, for conscientious objectors.
(b) Mere affiliation with religious organizations or other groups that advocate conscientious objection as a tenet of its creed may not necessarily determine an applicant’s position or belief or signify the accuracy of the applicant’s claim.
(c) Conversely, affiliation with a religious organization or group that 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 religious organization or tradition, and where the applicant’s claim of conscientious objection is related to such membership, an inquiry may properly be made as to the fact of such membership, the teaching of the religious organization or tradition, and the applicant’s religious activity. However, the fact that the applicant may disagree with, or not subscribe to, some of the tenets of the applicant’s religious organization, does not necessarily discredit the claim. The personal convictions of each individual will be controlling so long as personal convictions are derived from the applicant’s moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.
d. An applicant who is otherwise eligible for conscientious objector status may not be denied that status simply because the applicant’s conscientious objection influences the applicant’s personal views concerning the nation’s domestic or foreign policies. The task is to decide whether the beliefs professed are sincerely held, and whether they govern the claimant’s actions in both word and deed.
3.3. BURDEN OF PROOF.
a. The burden of establishing a claim of conscientious objection as a ground for separation or assignment to non-combatant training and service is on the applicant. To this end, the applicant must establish by clear and convincing evidence that:
- (1) The nature or basis of the claim falls within the definition of and criteria prescribed herein for conscientious objection.
- (2) Their belief in connection therewith is firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.
b. The applicant has the burden of determining and setting forth the exact nature of his or her request, i.e., whether for separation based on conscientious objection (Class 1-O), or for assignment to non-combatant training and service based on conscientious objection (Class 1-A-O).
SECTION 4: APPLICATION AND ADJUDICATION PROCEDURES
4.1. APPLICATION. A member of the Military Services who seeks either administrative separation or assignment to non-combatant duties by reason of conscientious objection must complete the necessary application. The Service member will be informed of the purpose of the application and its routine uses before submission (see Figure 1) and sign an acknowledgement that they have been so informed. The applicant will indicate whether a discharge or assignment to non-combatant duties is desired. The submission must include the following information:
a. General Information concerning the applicant including:
- (1) Full name, Department of Defense identity number, selective service number.
- (2) Name and address of each school and college attended.
- (3) List of all occupations, positions, jobs, or types of work.
- (4) The religious denomination or tradition of both parents.
b. A statement as to whether an application was made to the Selective Service System (local board) for classification as a conscientious objector before entry into the Military Services and the results of that effort.
c. A description or explanation of:
- (1) The nature of the belief that requires the applicant to seek separation from military service or assignment to non-combatant training and duty for reasons of conscience.
- (2) 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 was received or belief acquired) caused the change in or development of conscientious objector beliefs.
- (3) When these beliefs became incompatible with military service or combatant duties, and why.
d. A statement as to whether the applicant has ever been a member of any military organization or establishment before entering upon his or her present term of service; if so, the name and address of such organization will be provided along with reasons why the applicant became a member.
e. A statement as to whether the applicant is a member of a religious organization, or an organization that advocates moral or ethical beliefs, or practices a particular tradition; if so, the statement will set forth each of the following items:
- (1) The name of the organization or tradition, and the name and location of its governing body or head, if known.
- (2) When, where, and how the applicant became a member of said organization or tradition.
- (3) The name and location of any religious organization, congregation, or meeting that the applicant customarily attends, and the extent of the applicant's active participation therein including the name, title, and present address of the pastor or leader of such religious organization, congregation, or meeting.
- (4) A description of the creed or official statements, as they pertain to participation in war.
f. Additional information, such as letters of reference or official statements of organizations to which the applicant belongs or refers to in the application. The burden is on the applicant to obtain and forward such information.
g. Any other relevant items that the applicant desires to submit in support of the application.
4.2. COUNSELING AND INTERVIEWS. Before processing the application of the individual, the Service will ensure that the applicant is:
a. Advised of the specific provisions of Section 5303 of Title 38, U.S.C., regarding the possible effects of discharge as a conscientious objector who refuses to perform military duty, wear the military uniform, or comply with lawful orders of competent military authority. Applicants must sign a statement acknowledging that they have been so informed (see Figure 2).
b. Interviewed by a chaplain, who will submit a written opinion as to the nature and basis of the applicant’s claim, and as to the applicant’s sincerity and depth of conviction. The chaplain’s report will include the reasons for the conclusions contained within the report. The chaplain should ensure the applicant is made aware that the conversation is not confidential or privileged and will be used in an official report.
c. Evaluated by appropriately credentialed mental health professional (such as a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, or psychiatric advanced practice registered nurse) who will submit a written report of a psychiatric evaluation indicating the presence or absence of any mental condition that would warrant treatment or disposition through medical channels for the appropriate administrative action. This opinion and report will become part of the application file.
d. If an applicant refuses to participate or is uncooperative in the course of the interviews with a chaplain or medical personnel, this fact should be included in the interview report.
4.3. HEARING AND REPORT OF INVESTIGATION. Commanders at levels directed by the Military Department’s headquarters will appoint a chief warrant officer in the grade of WO-3 or higher or a commissioned officer in the grade of O-3 or higher to investigate the applicant’s claim. The investigating officer will not be in the applicant’s chain of command. If the applicant is a grade O-3 or higher commissioned officer, the investigating officer must be senior in grade to the applicant.
a. Upon appointment, the investigating officer will review the applicable respective Military Department’s regulations that implement this issuance. During the course of the investigation, the investigating officer will obtain all necessary legal advice from the local staff judge advocate or legal officer.
b. The investigating officer will conduct a hearing on the application to:
- (1) Give the applicant an opportunity to present any additional evidence in support of the application.
- (2) Enable the investigating officer to ascertain and assemble all relevant facts to create a comprehensive record.
- (3) Facilitate an informed recommendation by the investigating officer and an informed decision on the merits by higher authority.
c. Any failure or refusal of the applicant to submit to questioning under oath or affirmation before the investigating officer may be considered by the officer investigating the applicant’s claim. If the applicant fails to appear at the hearing without good cause, the investigating officer may proceed in the applicant’s absence. The applicant will then be deemed to have waived his or her appearance.
d. The applicant may elect to be represented at the hearing by legal counsel at the applicant’s expense. The legal counsel will be permitted to be present at the hearing, assist the applicant in the presentation of the applicant’s case, and examine all items in the file.
e. The hearing will be informal, non-adversarial, and not governed by the rules of evidence employed by courts-martial, except that all oral testimony presented will be under oath or affirmation. Any relevant evidence may be received. Statements obtained from persons not present at the hearing need not be made under oath or affirmation.
f. At the hearing, the applicant may submit any additional evidence (including sworn or unsworn statements) and present any witnesses in the applicant’s own behalf, but the applicant will be responsible for securing the witnesses’ 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.
g. A verbatim record of the hearing is not required. The applicant may provide such a record at the applicant’s own expense. If the applicant elects to provide such a record, the applicant will make a copy thereof 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, permit the applicant or the applicant’s counsel to examine the summaries, and, for the record, their differences with the investigating officer’s summary. Copies of statements and other documents received in evidence will be made a part of the hearing record.
h. At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigating officer will prepare a written report that will contain the following:
- (1) A statement as to whether the applicant appeared for the hearing was accompanied by counsel, and, if so, the latter’s identity, and whether the nature and purpose of the hearing was explained to the applicant and understood.
- (2) Any documents, statements, and other material received during the investigation, including summaries of the testimony of the witnesses presented (or a verbatim record of the testimony if such record was made).
- (3) A statement of the investigating officer’s conclusions as to the underlying basis of the applicant’s conscientious objection and the sincerity of the applicant’s beliefs, including reasons for such conclusions.
- (4) The investigating officer’s recommendations for disposition of the application, including all reasons therefore. The actions recommended will be limited to the following:
(a) Denial of any classification as a conscientious objector;
(b) Classification as a Class 1-A-O conscientious objector; or,
(c) Classification as a Class 1-O conscientious objector.
4.4. ADJUDICATION OF THE APPLICATION. The investigating officer’s report, along with the individual’s application, all interviews with chaplains and physicians, evidence received as a result of the investigating officer’s hearing, and any other items submitted by the applicant will constitute the record. The investigating officer’s conclusions and recommended disposition will be based on the entire record and not merely on the evidence produced at the hearings.
a. A copy of the record will be furnished to the applicant at the time it 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 the time frame prescribed by the Military Department concerned.
b. The application record will be forwarded to the commander of the officer who appointed the investigating officer, where it will be reviewed for completeness and legal sufficiency. If necessary, the application record may be returned to the investigating officer for further investigation. When the record is complete, the authority who appointed the investigating officer will forward it with his or her personal recommendation for disposition, and the reasons therefore, through the appropriate chain of command to the commander authorized to make a final decision in accordance with the regulations of the Military Department concerned.
c. The Secretary of a Military Department may delegate authority to approve applications to a commander exercising general court-martial jurisdiction (or equivalent level command for Reserve organizations) over the applicant. The completed record of a case approved in the field will be forwarded to the Secretary concerned for appropriate disposition.
d. When approval authority has not been delegated, or when the general court-martial convening authority recommends disapproval, the Secretary concerned will make a final decision based on the entire record of the requestor. Any additional information considered by the Secretary concerned, other than the official service record of the applicant, that is adverse to the applicant and that the applicant has not had an opportunity to comment upon or refute, will be made part of the record and the applicant will be given an opportunity to comment upon or refute such material before a final decision on the application is made.
e. The reasons for disapproval of the application will be made a part of the record and will be provided to the applicant.
f. Applicants are subject to and may be disciplined for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice , Chapter 47 of Title 10, U.S.C., while awaiting action on their applications.
g. Processing of applications can be suspended by:
- (1) The unauthorized absence of the applicant subsequent to the initiation of the application; or,
- (2) The initiation of disciplinary action or administrative separation proceedings against the applicant.
h. An applicant whose request for classification as a conscientious objector has been approved will not be discharged until all pending disciplinary action has been resolved.
i. To the extent practicable under the circumstances, during the period applications are being processed, every effort will be made to assign applicants to duties that will least conflict with their asserted beliefs. Unless the Military Department concerned provides otherwise, an applicant will be required to:
- (1) Comply with active duty or transfer orders in effect at the time of the application or subsequently issued and received.
- (2) Conform to the normal requirements of military service and perform such duties as are assigned.