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Courage: To Be A Conscientious Objector

by John K. Stoner  (November 10, 2017)

It doesn’t take a lot of courage to be a conscientious objector…to something that everyone is objecting to.  It is easier to object to racism today than it was to object to slavery in 1850. It is easier to object to slavery today than it is to object to war. 

Camilo Mejia says, “I was a coward, not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place.  I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being, and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier.  What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions?  I am confined to prison, but I feel, today more than ever connected to all humanity.  Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.” (see his book

     John F. Kennedy said, "War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."

Military conscription has not ended.

It has taken a new form.

Camilo Mejia volunteered for the military.  Later he had an awakening of conscience and an awareness of the moral injury which war was inflicting on him.  He became a conscientious objector to war.  

In the United States conscription has ended and we as persons are not conscripted for war.  But war goes on unobstructed, because our money is conscripted.  We could be conscientious objectors to war by being conscientious objectors to taxation for war. 

So, why aren’t we conscientious objectors to taxation for war?

Is it because we have not been able to imagine this—that we have not been creative enough in our objection to war to see the implications of funding war?  My own development of thought and conscience (obviously with critical help from others) has led me to believe that some form of war tax resistance is our moral, conscientious duty.  Our peace action support group here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,, has decided to promote symbolic war tax resistance.  We urge people to withhold $10.40 from their income tax payment and write letters to friends, family and public officials explaining why we do this as an act of conscience. ( )

        Someone has put it simply and unforgettably:  “If you pray for peace, don’t pay for war.” 

We believe that symbolic war tax resistance is both simple and profound, an act of courage which some consider large, and others small.  What is your view of it?  Write a comment, share your thoughts on the usual practice of praying for peace while paying for war.

Much more information is available from the National War Tax Coordiating Committee (see NWTRCC).  Bolster your courage by doing some research.  You will find ways to make conscientious objection to war taxes practical, if not easy. 

     To see the first in this series of 4 on conscientious objection click here .


  1. John thanks for the thought-provoking blogs. I am always disturbed when people with guns are seen as more courageous than than peaceful resistors. You may have used the JFK quote that "war will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." And yes we are conscripted through No Child Left Behind and 'service' registration to be eligible for scholarships and loans. Proudly for me, my sons chose to send letters of protest each year.
    Symbolism is good but what more can we do?

  2. What more? Always a question, a challenge! I would just affirm that every shred and scrap of truth which we share with others, whether sitting at a table eating, in conversation at work or in the store, is more. Like the JFK quote which you shared here (I wish I had put it in the blog--well I still can, these things can be revised!)--put that in a letter to the editor. It will touch the conscience of all but those who wished Kennedy dead.