Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted

I have wished there were a memorial for those who resisted war. It was disconcerting to live in Indianapolis where there are blocks of war memorials downtown. The city streets are laid out from the Circle in the center of the city, where the Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands. Ironically, I have taken many photos over many years of anti-war and other demonstrations that have been held at the Circle.

Anti-war demonstration on the Circle, downtown Indianapolis

I’m grateful that a Quaker friend sent me this article in Bleeding Heartland.

By an act of Congress in 1954, the name of the holiday (Armistice Day) was changed to Veterans Day. Some, including the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and Rory Fanning of Veterans for Peace, have urged the U.S. to resume observation of November 11th as Armistice Day, a day to reflect on how we can achieve peace as it was originally observed.

It is in that spirit that we honor the original intent of Armistice Day this morning by honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted war, those who have advocated for peace.

Those who advocate for peace may do so in ways that challenge us. I would like to take the next few minutes to share with you stories of three advocates for peace, all associated with the University of Iowa over the past century, but each one following his own conviction in his own way.

Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted by David McCartney, Bleeding Heartland, Nov 15, 2022

Steve Smith burns his draft card during “Soapbox Sound Off” in the Iowa Memorial Union on Oct. 20, 1965. Image from the 1966 Hawkeye yearbook, University Archives (RG 02.10), Department of Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries.

Steve Smith, a slight 20-year old sophomore English major, took the speaker’s stand Wednesday afternoon and spoke quietly of what he believed. He then burned his draft card.

The audience of approximately 200 persons had known what was coming. Comments, encouragement and laughter greet Smith. An emotional debate on the virtue of U.S. policy in Viet Nam had preceded his appearance. But Smith was very much alone in his act of defiance. He said he was “sick to my stomach” at what he was doing.

“I feel,” Smith said, “that now is the time, because of my own sense of dignity, my own sense of morality, to burn my draft card.” He took the card from the pocket of his sweater and ignited it.

U of Iowa Student Burns Draft Card During ‘Sound Off’. Steve Smith, 20, Says His Action Moral Decision by Paul Butler, The Daily Iowan, Oct 21, 1965

By the following summer (1964), Steve grew restive. He became a political activist, speaking out against racial segregation and participating in local marches calling for an end to racial discrimination. In July 1964, while in Canton, Miss., to help register African-Americans to vote, he was detained by a sheriff’s deputy and beaten brutally while in custody (The Des Moines Register, July 18, 1964). He was 19 at the time.

Steve’s attention turned toward the escalating U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. During 1964 and early 1965, there were scattered but growing antiwar protests around the country, including instances of draft card burning. The cards, issued by the Selective Service System to draft-eligible men between the ages of 18 and 35, became a symbolic target of antiwar protestors. Alarmed by the trend, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, a law in August 1965 criminalizing the destruction of draft cards: a maximum five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

For nearly two months, the law had its intended effect. But the silence ended on Oct. 15 when David J. Miller burned his draft card near an induction center in New York City. Five days later, on Oct. 20, Steve Smith became the first in the nation to do so on a college campus after the law’s enactment.

He did so during “Soapbox Sound Off,” a weekly open-mic session in the Iowa Memorial Union. Reaction from those in attendance was reportedly mixed: some cheered, others jeered. Smith was steadfast. “I do not feel that five years of my life are too much to give to say that this law is wrong,” he said at the forum. The next day’s newspapers reported that his father was unsympathetic and highly critical of his son’s action.

Two days later, FBI agents arrested Steve at an Iowa City apartment, where he was charged with violating the Rivers-Bray amendment to the Selective Service law. He left the UI after the fall 1965 semester and, while under arrest, married his first wife in Cedar Rapids the following February. For the charge of willful destruction of his Selective Service registration card, he was tried and convicted in U.S. District Court in 1966 and sentenced to three years’ probation. The Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction later that year.

Old Gold: Steve Smith, following his conscience. UI archivist seeks info about the student who burned his draft card in 1965 by David McCartney, Iowa Now, 7/30/2012

Today we honor the good work of people like Steve. We honor his patriotism, his willingness to question our government’s actions. We honor his desire for a more just and generous and peaceful society. And we honor his legacy of courage that bloomed on our campus 57 years ago.

The University has taken steps to acknowledge this act of civil disobedience, and it has done so by recently installing a plaque in the Iowa Memorial Union. The plaque was unveiled last month and it recounts Steve Smith’s antiwar protest and its historic significance, an event that prompted further debate about the war not only on campus, but across the state and across the nation. I invite you to visit and view the plaque, which is located on the lower level of the Iowa Memorial Union near the south entrance.

The debate over war is never-ending.

What can we do? How do we respond, when our government engages in these practices? What can we do, individually or collectively?

We might feel powerless, we might feel hopeless, but we can start with ourselves. And we can do so on our terms. At age 18, in 1974, I registered for the Selective Service as a conscientious objector. It was a symbolic act, as the draft had been suspended by that time; I nonetheless found it necessary to commit myself to doing so. Yet as a U.S. taxpayer I realize I am complicit in the activities recounted in the Brennan Center report. Increasing charitable donations, in lieu of taxes, is perhaps one way to address this.

There is no single answer. But a common thread is hope. Rebecca Solnit writes,

I believe in hope as an act of defiance, or rather as the foundation for an ongoing series of acts of defiance, those acts necessary to bring about some of what we hope for while we live by principle in the meantime. There is no alternative, except surrender. And surrender not only abandons the future, it abandons the soul.

Rebecca Solnit

This of course is easier said than done. But if we recognize that the decisions we make come from our truth, as Steve Smith had done in 1965 in the face of hostility, we may find peace with ourselves. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur said, All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

In closing, I would like to share this from Kristen Suagee-Beauduy:

Resistance is not a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day. Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them.

Kristen Suagee-Beauduy

Honoring all victims of war, including those who resisted by David McCartney, Bleeding Heartland, Nov 15, 2022

I am grateful to learn about Steve Smith’s story and that he was a student at the University of Iowa.

I began as a student at Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school in 1966, not far from the University of Iowa. While a student at Scattergood, in 1968 I attended the national conference on the draft and conscription, held at Earlham College. https://jeffkisling.com/2019/10/05/richmond-declaration-on-the-draft/

Friends Coordinating Committee on Peace has announced a national conference on the draft and conscription to be held at Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana), October 11th through 13th. It is primarily planned as a working conference, with about 180 representatives from Yearly Meetings, Friends schools and other Friends’ organizations and seventy to a hundred additional Friends appointed at large. A detailed program and other information may be obtained from FCCP, 1520 Race Street, Philadelphia, 19102.  

Friends Journal 8/15/1968

When I was a Senior, during one of the days of the Moratorium to end the war in Vietnam, Oct 15, 1969, the entire student body (about sixty) walked from the school into Iowa City, to the University of Iowa (about 12 miles). During another of the Moratorium days, Nov 15, 1969, we held a conference about the war and the draft at the school.

October 11, 1969  School Committee Day

From the Scattergood Friends School committee minutes:

A group of students attended Committee meeting and explained plans for their participation in the October 15 Moratorium. The Committee wholeheartedly endorses the plans. The following statement will be handed out in answer to any inquiries:

“These students and faculty of Scattergood School are undertaking the twelve mile walk from campus to Iowa City in observance of the October 15 Moratorium. In order not to detract from the purpose of the walk, we have decided to remain silent. You are welcome to join us in this expression of our sorrow and disapproval of the war and loss of life in Vietnam. Please follow the example of the group and accept any heckling or provocation in silence.”

Scattergood Friends School students’ Peace Walk from the School to the University of Iowa on the Moratorium to end the war in Vietnam

I turned in my draft cards but was not prosecuted. Unfortunately, my schoolmate, Daniel Barrett was imprisoned for his draft resistance. Our stories can be found in those collected by (Quaker) Don Laughlin, Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription.

My friend and mentor, Don Laughlin (Quaker) collected stories of Quaker men facing war and conscription.

David F. McCartney, University Archives

david mccartney

McCartney is a dedicated archivist ensuring access to University of Iowa history and highlighting voices that are underrepresented in the archives. McCartney has developed relationships across campus, working with classes or faculty in every department. After publishing an award-winning article on the life of UI student Stephen Smith, a young man from a small Iowa town who found his voice through civil rights activism in the 1960s, McCartney organized the Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network to bring together related repositories and collections from across the state. He also established the Stephen Lynn Smith Memorial Scholarship for Social Justice. He has served as a consultant for many smaller archives and libraries in Iowa and volunteers with smaller nonprofit organizations. He has held many positions in the Midwest Archives Conference, including president, and makes invaluable contributions to the Big Ten Academic Alliance University Archivist Group and the Consortium of Iowa Archivists.

UI honors recipients of 2020 faculty, staff awards by JACK ROSSI, Iowa Now, 11/17/2020


The Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network uncovers, preserves, and shares the stories of Iowans who participated in Civil Rights-related activity or the African American experience. HICRN  is made up of community members, archivists, historians, librarians, former Civil Rights workers, and others from across Iowa who seek and preserve photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, letters, personal memoirs, and oral history interviews. https://dsps.lib.uiowa.edu/hicrn/

Although not exactly a memorial for war resisters, my dad, Burt Kisling, and Chuck Day, both Quakers, worked to have this sculpture of three intertwined doves, the “Path to Peace”, installed in downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

“Path to Peace”, Des Moines, Iowa

Foundational Stories: Acts of Faith Part 1

Recently a Quaker friend challenged us to consider what our foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about my foundational stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

Earlier I wrote Foundational Stories: Quaker Faith. I said we express our faith by telling stories about our faith-based decisions and actions.  To continue telling my foundational stories related to faith, I’m led to share some of my Spirit-led stories.

In the last post I wrote about my first spiritual challenge-how I came to be a draft resister at the time of the Vietnam War. I have become aware that many people today have almost no real conception of war, unless someone they love is in the armed forces. Something that happened fifty years ago is relegated to the history books.

Photography is one of the three pieces of my foundational stories. I’ve taken the photos I share in my blog posts, including these from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.

I have so many photos from Washington, DC, because of my years on the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s General Committee, which held annual meetings every November. Agreeing to be on the General Committee was another spirit-led decision. I was concerned about agreeing to do that because of the travel involved. I refused to have a car for environmental reasons (also spirit-led). So I took 22 hour train trips from Indianapolis to Washington for those meetings. Again I had many rich experiences and got to know Friends from all over the country. Today I attend the weekly Zoom worship sharing meeting, FCNL’s Witness Wednesday Silent Reflection. Your are welcome to join every Wednesday at 4:15 Central times.  fcnl.org/ww-stream

In the previous post about Quaker Faith I wrote about my struggles at that time that led me to be a draft resister. That was such a huge issue that there were many stories within the stories about the war.

Vietnam War

Yesterday I wrote in detail about some of my experiences related to the war in Vietnam. I was a student at Scattergood Friends School and really struggled with my leading to resist the draft.

My first experience in organizing occurred at this time, when I helped organize a draft conference at Scattergood. This was held on one of the national days of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

During another of the National Moratorium days to end the war in Vietnam in 1969, Bob Berquist, our Scattergood government teacher, suggested we go to the nearby town of West Branch and talk with people there about the war. (Scattergood is located on a farm.) He drove three of us into town, stopped at a random house, and stayed in the car while we went up to the door. I still remember how scared I was. But it was a real education to find how unpopular the war was at every house we visited. People seemed to appreciate the chance to share their feelings. Although I was very uncomfortable with the idea, because of my strong spiritual feelings against war, I felt I should do this. And as with every other time I followed those leadings, I benefited in many ways. They were/are always growing experiences.

Earlham College

After Scattergood I attended Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana. I had gone to the college in 1968, while a student at Scattergood, for a conference of Quakers from across the nation who gathered to write what became the Declaration on the Draft and Conscription: Richmond 1968.

There was a small group of Quaker students, Young Friends, which were an important part of my spiritual life at Earlham. Although I left Earlham after one year, I returned at the time I was preparing to turn in my draft cards. We held the meeting for worship described here.

4:00 pm. Went to Meeting for worship. Jan Cole, Al Ingles, Dav Nagle, Marggie Schutz, Margaret and Lewis Taylor, Becky Gibson, Jim Bay, Ruby, and several others attended.

Al had read my letter to the draft board and my statement on the draft earlier, and asked if I would let him read it during Meeting. I told him that would be alright, so he did.

Al spoke of support and the future and how God spoke through me. I would hope that would be true but felt unworthy.

Margaret Taylor spoke of Iowa Friends who had always spoken against war and done what they felt right. She spoke of her support for me.

Becky Gibson spoke, very movingly, about finding who you are, and how important it is to do what is right.

Then Dav spoke, also very movingly. He is certainly an able minister—one of the people I love and respect very much. He seems always to be close to the center. He said severing ties with Selective Service is a major decision—but ALL decisions are major when they deal with principle and the Spirit. All, each of our decisions must be integral. “Severing ties with Selective Service is not an isolated act in this life of Jeff’s.”

After a good while I felt moved to speak. When confronted with a decision, we are told to do God‘s will. But God’s will is so difficult to discern among many influences—people, law, self (selfishness and pride). Realizing this, Thomas A’ Beckett said, “I am loathsome.” This was how I felt at times. But after he said that, he heard what he believed to be the voice of God saying “Nevertheless, I love.

Journal 1/30/1972

I felt very uncomfortable having a student deferment from the draft. And as can be seen from this letter to my parents, I continued to work through what I was going to do about the war.

You want me to be practical; not so idealistic. But what you might see as idealistic, I see not only as practical, but necessary in order to be true to my code of life. And if you forsake your principles and all that you believe in, what do you have left?

The most difficult part of this decision has been that I would hurt you. But how far should a man go trying to protect those that he loves, at the same time denying the principles that give his life meaning?

Letter to my parents from Earlham College

I previous wrote about the Friends Volunteer Service Mission (VSM) that was related to my Vietnam War decisions and actions. One of the significant consequences of my participation in VSM were the friendships I made with the kids in the neighborhood as I described in that post about VSM.

As I found over and over again as I worked in various community organizing situations, the most important thing is to build friendships. When I was about to leave VSM in Indianapolis and return to Iowa, the neighborhood kids made a meal of spaghetti, baked a chocolate cake, and gave me a record album of Jim Croce they knew I liked.

In Iowa I took classes at the community college, including photography (one area of my foundational stories), But I missed the kids in Indianapolis so much that I decided to return there. The family of several of those kids invited me to live with them while I looked for a job and a place to live. There wasn’t a significant difference in our ages, although at that age a difference of a year or two seemed big. I was about 21 and they were around 14 years old.

When I was first in Indianapolis, I received on-the-job training as a respiratory therapy technician. On my return to Indianapolis I got a job in the respiratory therapy department of Indiana University Medical Center.

At the Medical Center I worked with women on the labor and delivery ward. I was at times present for the miracle of birth.

Many of the women referred to the Medical Center had high risk pregnancies. Respiratory therapists from Riley Hospital for Children, which was part of the Medical Center, would come to help stabilize infants who had various conditions that needed to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Riley.

It was definitely spirit-led that when I saw the skills those respiratory therapists had, I wanted to be trained to do that. I was able to transfer to the respiratory therapy department at the Childrens Hospital. After an introduction to respiratory care for general pediatric patients I was eventually trained to work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At one time I was the respiratory therapy supervisor for the NICU.

Permission was obtained to publish this photo, which was part of an article in the Indiana Business Journal

I hadn’t decided what I would study at college. The Medical Center had a degree program for Respiratory Therapy. Much as I loved my work, I hadn’t thought of applying to the Respiratory Therapy program. For one thing there were usually about two hundred applicants for each class of fifteen.

But on the day the applicants were being interviewed, the Clinical Instructor of the program came and pulled me off my patient assignments and took me to be interviewed. He was familiar with my work and wanted me to be in the class. I was selected to enter the program. These spirit-led steps resulted in me getting a degree in Respiratory Therapy and this became my career for my entire working life.

This is enough for today. I can tell it is going to take several more blog posts to tell more of my faith-based stories.

Post Script: I feel blessed to have been led to keep a Journal for a few years. I began that during the time I was struggling with the draft decision. This is a link to some of those Journal entries:


Foundational Stories: Quaker Faith

Recently a Quaker friend challenged us to consider what our foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing about my foundational stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

This challenge comes at a time when I’m considering changes in those three things. Thus far my blog posts have been about how these stories began and have evolved.

I’m at the point of considering what those stories are now. A couple of days ago I wrote about the current state of how I care for Mother Earth.

Now I’ll try to express the current state of my Quaker faith, which will be the most difficult of the three parts of my foundational stories to write.

Part of what I was taught is we should not call attention to ourselves. But I have been led, as part of my faith, to share stories about my experiences and faith. The way we live our lives is how we express our faith. We share our faith by telling stories about these faith-based actions. The main reason photography is such a large part of my foundational stories is because photos can be a way to share my spiritual experiences.

I often think about what Noah Baker Merrill, a Quaker, wrote about this.

“We need to be careful when we talk about humility. The kind of humility this work brings isn’t the kind that would have us reject or repress our gifts. This kind of false humility leads us to oppress each other in the name of preventing pridefulness. This happens far too often.”

Noah Baker Merrill, “Prophets, Midwives, and Thieves: Reclaiming the Ministry of the Whole.”

Or as my friend Ronnie James, another storyteller says, “anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah”.

Religious faith is a matter of beliefs and, sometimes, spiritual experiences. I’ve heard not everyone has had, or at least not recognized, spiritual experience(s). I find it very interesting that those Friends (Quakers) who have said they had spiritual experience(s), have all said something like “and that’s all I’ll say about that”. That’s understandable because we don’t have the language to express this. Which makes it difficult to write about faith. Also, there is something about protecting something that is so intimate and profound in our lives.

My first spiritual experience was when I was about ten years old during meeting for worship at the Bear Creek meetinghouse. “And that’s all I’ll say about that”. Except to say I had no doubt about the presence of the Spirit in the world from that day on. I know I am blessed to have had that, and subsequent spiritual experiences.

Another Friend said his first spiritual experience came when he was about that age. This makes me realize we should pay attention to what young people experience. I love the native concept of children as sacred beings.

The concrete expression of our faith is seen in our actions in this world. This might mean we are led to act in ways contrary to the laws or conventions of the society we live in. Which is often not easy to do. Peer pressure can be a powerful force. There might be significant monetary costs and/or legal penalties. Quakers were once (still?) known as “peculiar people”. When there are conflicts between our spiritual beliefs and the laws of the government, people of faith try to obey the creator. Unfortunately, many times it is apparent that people who identify themselves as religious do not act according to the beliefs they profess. This lack of spiritual integrity results in many people rejecting organized religion.

The first time I was confronted with a situation where my beliefs were contrary to the laws of the land related to registration for the Selective Service System. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school, during the time of the Vietnam War (1960’s). A military draft was being used to conscript young men into the armed forces. Quakers do not believe in war nor in participating in the military. Those with religious objections to serving in the military could apply for Conscientious Objector (CO) status, which if granted, would allow them to do two years of alternative service, such as working in a hospital instead of military service.

My Quaker friend and mentor, Don Laughlin, collected these stories of Quakers who opposed war and conscription.

I turned eighteen years of age while a Senior at Scattergood (1969). Young men were required to register for the Selective Service System at that age. The choices were either to do so, or apply for Conscientious Objector status, or do neither and face imprisonment.

I really struggled with whether I should accept alternative service, or not cooperate with the Selective Service System. I studied and prayed a great deal. I was convinced that alternative service was going along with the system. The question was whether to take the safer path of conscientious objection, or risk prison by resisting the draft.

I recognized this decision would set the course for the rest of my life. Which is why this is part of my foundational stories. If I compromised about this, I would likely do so in similar circumstances for the rest of my life. I would always be aware that I had not acted according to my beliefs.

The following Epistle, and the examples of the men who refused to cooperate with the military, many of whom did serve time in prison, showed me there were those who acted according to their beliefs despite the consequences.

The following is an excerpt from a statement by a group of Quaker young men at that time, including Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Quakers Don Laughlin and Roy Knight.

Those of us who are joining in this epistle believe that cooperating with the draft, even as a recognized conscientious objector, makes one part of the power which forces our brothers into the military and into war.  If we Friends believe that we are special beings and alone deserve to be exempted from war, we find that doing civilian service with conscription or keeping deferments as we pursue our professional careers are acceptable courses of action.   But if we Friends really believe that war is wrong, that no man should become the executioner or victim of his brothers, then we will find it impossible to collaborate with the Selective Service System.  We will risk being put in prison before we help turn men into murderers.

It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions. Let our lives show that we oppose not only our own participation in war, but any man’s participation in it.
In our early history we Friends were known for our courage in living according to our convictions. At times during the 1600’s thousands of Quakers were in jails for refusing to pay any special respect to those in power, for worshiping in their own way, and for following the leadings of conscience.

We may not be able to change our government’s terrifying policy in Vietnam.  But we can try to change our own lives.  We must be ready to accept the sacrifices involved if we hope to make a real testimony for Peace.  We must make Pacifism a way of life in a violent world.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and brothers,

An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription

This story would not be complete without including another important part of this decision, which was the tensions with my parents. They were against the war but wanted me to accept Conscientious Objector status. They were very upset when I said I couldn’t do that. I understood they didn’t want me to face prison and life as a felon, but they didn’t understand why I knew I must resist. I felt betrayed by their lack of support. Looking back from this time, it is easier to accept what they were doing out of love.

I mailed the following to the draft board today (2/6/1972), along with my registration certificate and classification (1-0) card: 


Dear members and clerk of the draft board:    

I have received an order to report for civilian work February 1, 1972. 

I want to thank you for your concerned questions at my personal appearance, when we were considering my position as a conscientious objector.  I have appreciated Mrs. Landon’s kindness and consideration, even when I returned my draft cards.  Thank you for giving me more time to consider this decision.  I hadn’t realized what a powerful affect that action would have on some people.  The extra time gave them, and me, a chance to come to grips with the decision and its consequences.  However, my beliefs have remained basically the same and the time has come to act accordingly.    

I am sure none of us really want war.  Many are convinced that was is a ‘necessary evil’—the only way to achieve peace.  I think I can understand that, and I do respect those who sincerely believe it—their sacrifice has been very great.    

But I do not believe war is the way to peace.  True peace is a personal, internal, spiritual matter.  When we come to know and love ourselves and our God, then and only then do we have peace.  From this point, peace and love will flow from us and should engulf those we live and work with.  This is the only way to find and promote peace. 

In this matter, war has no place.    

The enclosed attempts to illustrate my beliefs in relation to the Selective Service System.  I hope this will help you to understand why I feel I cannot cooperate with the Selective Service System.  I want it to be clearly understood that I am not doing alternative service.  It is not my choice.  There is nothing else I can do. 

Jeff Kisling 

Letter to my draft board 

I write concerning my relationship with the Selective Service System.  There are many alternatives.  In fact, someone once said the only alternative not open to a young man facing the draft is that of being left alone.  I explored several of these.  I applied for and was granted conscientious objector status (1-0).  Then I had a student deferment, which made me very uneasy.  I am now doing work which should qualify as alternative service, but for reasons I will attempt to explain herein, I find this alternative to be unacceptable. 

I find it difficult to understand why one young man must explain his decision to do civilian work for a non-profit organization while another need make no explanation, indeed is encouraged to fight and perhaps kill other human beings.  But it is one’s duty to explain one’s actions in order that others might understand, and perhaps follow.  Noncooperation is less understood than conscientious objection, so I feel all the more compelled to try to present an explanation.  I must try to explain, to spare my family the burden of doing so, for they neither clearly understand nor agree with my decision.  (Note:  they fully supported alternative service, but didn’t want to see me imprisoned). 

This decision grew out of my experience as a member of the Society of Friends.  Meetings of the Society of Friends can be a source of strength and guidance as one begins and continues to search for meaning in life.  Quakers have always believed that there is that of God in every man, that each of us has the ability to communicate with that of God in us, and the responsibility to respond to that of God in everyone.  It is evident that Jesus had communion with God—evident in the actions of his life and in his teachings—culminating in “not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching—that God’s will can be discerned and should be obeyed even at the cost of doubt and persecution.  Quakers readily accept Jesus as an exceptional person and try to live up to the principles he gave us to live by.  But we are even more concerned that we obey that Inner Light to which He was so sensitive, so we and have personal contact with and guidance from God.  Thus, Quakers try to minimize distractions from “this (secular) world” in order to discern the will of God in their hearts and His presence in their midst.  They gather together in a simple room and settle down together, searching in silence—each contributing to the spirit of the meeting as a whole.  There are times when a member feels he has been ‘moved by the spirit’ to share with the group, in which case the meeting considers the message in further silence. 

There is a spirit which comes from the silence which gives direction to life.  The spirit is often difficult to discern because of our ties to ‘this world.’  We are afraid or too proud to give up our desire to ‘reason through’ decisions.  Thus we develop a system of beliefs and guidelines composed of traditional beliefs, our own reasoning, and as much guidance from the Inner Light as we are willing to seek and accept.  Thus our decisions, being not entirely grounded upon our faith, may not always be ‘right’.  But we can do no more, nor should we do less, than follow our conscience as occasions arise—always seeking to become more attuned to the spirit.    

Adolescence is that period when one begins to seriously consider ‘who he is’ and his purpose in the world.  It is a time when one has so many question and so few answers.  The extent to which a young person searches for, and finds answers to these questions is dependent upon guidance given by parents, peers, school and church; the degree to which this guidance corresponds to his own experience and needs; and his own self-discipline and desire to continue the search.  Too often the leadership and resources are not available; he is ‘turned off’ by inconsistencies or shallowness or insincerity on the part of those he looks to for guidance and example; or materialistic demands distract from the search. 

The draft requires fundamental moral decisions at this time in life.  This may not be bad in itself, but tremendous pressure is brought to bear to influence the decision—tradition, parental and peer pressure, the law, etc.  The Selective Service System tries to attract men to the armed forces by relying on these pressures and by not making alternatives widely known.  The pressures in this case are for action which is contrary to the experience and desires of most young men—frustrating, anguishing when one is searching for truth, honesty and integrity.  This type of experience stifles personal growth and leads to the loss of a spirit of idealism and faith in the goodness of men.  Can there be a graver crime than that of destroying the spirit and dreams of the young?  Only that of destroying life itself, and the Selective Service System is directly implicated in both.    

Most of us agree that conscription and war are unjust-evil.  The question is, how do we deal with evil?  ‘Resist not evil’—a phrase widely known but little understood and less obeyed.  ‘Do not set yourself against one who wrongs you’ (NEB) is a better way to put it, I think.  In setting ourselves against those who harm us, we look, to some extent, for some way to hurt, or at least hinder them.  We look for the worst in others and play upon their weaknesses rather than looking for the best and trying to fortify it.  Out task is to overcome evil by doing good.    

The time we spend ‘resisting evil’ could be better spent in trying to find out where we can do better ourselves.  You do not change others by opposing them—rather, by respecting and trying to understand and learn from them, you can both benefit and move nearer the truth.  A life of example—showing the possibilities and fruits of a life lived in love and concern for others, is the only way to overcome evil. 

I do not want my example to be alliance with evil.  Thus, I cannot serve with the Selective Service System.  However, I will not set myself against it.  I will break my ties with Selective Service, and concentrate on the difficult task of working for peace in whatever way I can.    

The conclusion to my draft story is that I was drafted at a time when men were not being drafted for the armed forces. A Supreme Court case declared this to be illegal, so my order to report for civilian service was invalidated and I wasn’t prosecuted.  I did finish my two years with Friends Volunteer Service Mission in Indianapolis. 

Letters to and from Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 

Homer Moffitt, Clerk 
Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 

Dear Friends, 

I am thankful for your kind letters and encouragement concerning my work in Indianapolis.  I am learning much about love, and as I respond to the love of others, and they to mine, we are all amazed at how it grows. 

I am enclosing a statement I have written concerning conscription, and my decision not to cooperate with the Selective Service System any more.  I sent a copy of that statement, along with my draft cards, to my draft board. 

Again, I tried very hard to follow the leading of the inner light.  If I alone were making the decision, this would probably not be my choice.  Thomas a’ Beckett, torn between his obligations to the Church and those to the State, was searching for guidance.  When he realized all the forces that influence him—selfish desires for power and personal gain, fear of punishment or displeasing people, etc., he said. “I am loathsome.”  But then he heard what he believed to be the voice of God saying, “Nevertheless, I love.” 

I, too, feel shamed when I realize the factors that often influence my decisions and actions.  On this matter, I have tried very hard to be sensitive to the will of God, and hope to do so in the times to come.  Still somewhat uncertain that my choice is right, I am comforted in knowing that He still loves. 

Jeff Kisling 

In reply: 

Dear Jeff, 

We have found your statement explaining your relationship to the Selective Service System very moving.  Several of us are aware that your decision on this has been a difficult and lonely one.  We want to assure you of our love and support as you meet the events which result from your courageous stand. 

On behalf of the Peace Committee of Bear Creek Monthly Meeting 

Our foundational stories: Beginning

Recently I heard a Quaker friend speak about returning to the beginning of a foundational story in our lives. And then think about how that story changed as we grew older. And how we view it today.

That was amazing because I had begun to do just that before she spoke. My foundational story is related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. This combination has remained a powerful, yet evolving, influence throughout my life.

I’m praying about my foundational story for several reasons. Thinking of how drastically our world has changed since the beginning of my story. And wondering how I might be most helpful or effective now. Because my Quaker faith, care for Mother Earth, and photography have always been about doing what I’m led to do to help all my relations.

I often think of this quote:

If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

So, this is me radically rethinking the stories I tell myself (and you). We are being forced to nurture the emergence of new stories into being because of the catastrophes that are ever worsening because of environmental devastation.

As I explain in the following, there have been times when I’ve kept a record of what I was thinking and feeling, documenting my foundational stories. Of course, I didn’t have a way to share what I was writing in my journal at the beginning of my story. That is one difference in how my story has changed, now that there are so many ways to share writings on the Internet. This has stimulated me to write nearly daily blog posts for more than the past five years. I don’t know how many people read them. Although the main reason has always been for me to think through, pray about, what was going on at the time.

Now I have ways to share what I was learning about spirituality with others. Some of this might be helpful for the declining number of those involved in organized religion. This is the Quaker piece of my story.

I began a journal in 1969 when I was a senior at Scattergood Friends School. (see: journal). This is my first journal entry.

Sept 29, 1969

Journal, Sept 29, 1969

I sometimes included printed material in my journal. The following, It’s Your Choice, was written by Joan Baez, a folk singer and peace advocate. Which includes a photo of half of a young man’s face. I put a photo of myself at the time on the right-hand page of the journal entry for November 6, 1969. (Photography as part of my foundational story). Getting close to my eighteenth birthday, Nov. 21, 1969, when I would have to decide whether to register for the draft.

I would disagree with one thing she wrote. I believed it WAS God who was going to get us out of the bloody mess we were in, the Vietnam War.

Journal, Nov 6, 1969

It’s your choice
Ultimately you can listen to only one thing, not your President, not you many misguided leaders, save a few, not the Communists or the Socialists or the Republicans or the Democrats, but you must listen to your own heart, and do what is dictates. Because your heart is the only thing which can tell you what is right and what is wrong. After you have found out what you think is right and what is wrong, then you must know that you can say yes to what is right and no to what is wrong. And you young men, for instance, if you feel that to kill is wrong and to go to war is wrong, you have to say no to the draft. And if you young ladies think it is wrong to kill, and war is wrong, you can say yes to the young men who say no to the draft. Because it is not the leaders and the dictators, it is not God who is going to get us out of the bloody mess we are in. It is only you and only me.

Joan Baez

Mother Earth

Anyone who has farmed is intimately connected to our environment. The first ten years of my life we lived on dairy farms. I took the beauty for granted and remember much of the time was taken up with hard work. We had a large pond with a narrow strip of land through the middle, dividing it in half. There were many times I was so frustrated when I got the herd of cows moving around the pond, heading to the barn for milking, when half of them would turn back, going the wrong way down that narrow strip on the pond. And of course, when I went to get them, others would turn around, going along the side of the pond. One day it was so muddy I stepped out of my boots and that was the last straw. I went to the house in tears, without the cows.

In those days (1950’s) living on the farm usually meant living with very little money. But my parents were able to rent small campers that we loaded with food and went camping for two weeks. We usually went to National Parks. One of the first was Rocky Mountain National Park, which immediately became our favorite.


As a teenager I was blessed to be led to photography. I was a lifeguard at the YMCA in Marshalltown, Iowa, one summer. To show appreciation (we didn’t get paid) we were taken to the YMCA in Racine, Wisconsin, where we were taught to scuba dive in the swimming pool there.

On the way home, we stopped in downtown Chicago. I was amazed to find a camera so inexpensive; I could buy it with the small amount of cash I had with me. In those days cameras didn’t have automatic focus or built-in light meters. So, you used a standalone light meter to see what settings were needed for the shutter speed and aperture, and manual set those on the camera. The focus was also set manually. The camera looked like this picture on a tee shirt I have.

I don’t know why I was so drawn to photography. My mother and brother were artists. I couldn’t draw or paint well, though I didn’t spend much time practicing. This is my portrait of my best friend, Randy Porter.

Part of it was the science of photography. My career was to be computer programming and medical research. But the exacting process of film and paper development was often frustrating. For example, the temperature of all the chemicals and water bath could not vary more than one degree without causing problems in creating the negative of the film. I developed this photo of Long’s Peak in a darkroom.

Long’s Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Jeff Kisling

I wrote a lengthy story about photography in my life: Jeffrey Allen Kisling Photography

Quaker Faith

I was born into a Quaker family and community, Bear Creek Friends, near Earlham, Iowa. So, I grew up seeing how faith was an integral part of people’s lives.

Bear Creek Friends Meeting near Earlham, Iowa

Attending Scattergood Friends School, a co-ed Quaker boarding high school, continued my Quaker education. Not so much intellectually, but in the way we worked together, and made decisions in community. We rotated through a crew system, where we prepared meals, baked bread, cleaned, did laundry, raised pigs, and did other work on the farm.

Scattergood Friends School

It’s not at all that we were indoctrinated. In fact, what we value is how we are challenged to examine our beliefs and whether we are living those in our lives. We have a spiritual practice of reflecting on questions, or queries, about our lives at that moment.

Queries related to peace and nonviolence:

  • What are we doing to educate ourselves and others about the causes of conflict in our own lives, our families and our meetings? Do we provide refuge and assistance, including advocacy, for spouses, children, or elderly persons who are victims of violence or neglect?
  • Do we recognize that we can be perpetrators as well as victims of violence? How do we deal with this? How can we support one another so that healing may take place?
  • What are we doing to understand the causes of war and violence and to work toward peaceful settlement of differences locally, nationally, and internationally? How do we support institutions and organizations that promote peace?
  • Do we faithfully maintain our testimony against preparation for and participation in war?

The first time I was really challenged in my faith was while a senior at Scattergood. All eighteen-year-old boys were required to register with the Selective Service System (military draft). That was consequential because the draft at that time was inducting boys into the armed forces, where many were sent to the war in Vietnam.

Quakers could apply for conscientious objector status, which would allow you to spend two years working as a civilian, most often in hospitals. Many of us found doing so was still participating in the military and refused to cooperate with the draft. To refuse was a felony offense.

I was convinced becoming a conscientious objector was wrong for me. But I struggled with the idea of facing time in prison. There were over a dozen Quaker men who refused to cooperate in the 1950’s when there was a peacetime draft. And they were imprisoned. Muhammad Ali also refused to be drafted. That showed me there are people who act according to their beliefs, no matter the consequences. Without their example, I imagine I might not have resisted the draft myself. I did refuse to cooperate but was not prosecuted for that.

Quakers don’t believe in proselytizing, instead believing the way they lived their lives might be an example for others. Like those who resisted the draft mentioned above.


My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography. These three things, together, concern for Mother Earth, photography, and faith, came into play in many ways, and at various times during my life. I love this quotation, which pulls these things together.

(Barry) Lopez could not have known the effect he was having on one impressionable member of the audience. Yet I believe he established a connection with me that evening—a thin strand in the elaborate web that is community—by describing a path that was utterly new to me, and by suggesting that, as others had walked that path, it was safe for me to do so as well. This all happened in the space of a few seconds, as he mulled over the central question plaguing the men and women at the conference, namely: How could we convince lawmakers to pass laws to protect wilderness? Lopez argued that wilderness activists will never achieve the success they seek until they can go before a panel of legislators and testify that a certain river or butterfly or mountain or tree must be saved, not because of its economic importance, not because it has recreational or historical or scientific value, but because it is so beautiful.

His words struck a chord in me. I left the room a changed person, one who suddenly knew exactly what he wanted to do and how to do it. I had known that love is a powerful weapon, but until that moment I had not understood how to use it. What I learned on that long-ago evening, and what I have counted on ever since, is that to save a wilderness, or to be a writer or a cab driver or a homemaker—to live one’s life—one must reach deep into one’s heart and find what is there, then speak it plainly and without shame.

Reid, Robert Leonard. Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West. Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

No Way Out but War

I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Organized a draft conference, walked with the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School (all sixty of us) fourteen miles into Iowa City during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, became a draft resister. The entire country was in an uproar. Young men and their families lived in fear of induction based on a lottery system. Over 58,000 Americans were killed.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

I’ve often despaired at the absence of an antiwar movement since our plunge into a ‘war on terror’ that is an excuse to have military presence and conflict in any place politicians define a threat. To terrorize children by the sounds of drones circulating overhead. With untold civilian casualties from drone strikes. Death by remote control.

What should I have done? What should I be doing now?

Shortly after the Vietnam years, I moved to Indianapolis (1970). The filthy air, the clouds of smoke pouring out of every tailpipe, traumatized me. Especially as I imagined how the air in the beautiful National Parks I had visited might become polluted.

We went on vacation to California around this time. The first day in Los Angeles we could hardly breathe. We coughed and our eyes were irritated. We were told we would get used to it.

It was this war against Mother Earth I devoted my efforts to, including refusing to own a car, which I called a weapon of mass destruction. And against the wars of White supremacy on black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

But the armed wars of this country continued, expanded internationally. And turned inward, bringing the tactics, equipment, and attitudes of war to our cities.

The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Chris Hedges goes on to explain

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Where was the organized anti-war movement?

I wasn’t there. As I said, I was led to the ‘fight’ to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. The damage we’ve done to our environment has led to the collapse we are experiencing now. As I wrote just yesterday, collapse is already here. Significantly worsening environmental chaos is everywhere and will only worsen, rapidly.

What does this mean regarding militarization now? As Chris Hedges writes above, there is no political resistance to continued military spending, leaving little for domestic needs. “The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

The US military is the largest polluter in the world because of the combustion of fossil fuels by the machines of war and the energy needed by steel production.

Depletion of fossil fuel supplies will eventually render those machines useless. But they will be a priority for dwindling supplies. I guess time will tell how long armored tanks and planes will have fuel in the timeline for our collapsing society.

So many military installations are on ocean shores and will be flooded by rising waters.

As oil supplies are depleted, the US armed forces will continue to take over fossil fuel sources anywhere in the world.

At the time when it is absolutely essential to stop burning fossil fuels, the military will continue doing the opposite. Might this be the way we finally rise up against the tools of war?

As our economy continues to collapse, the armed forces and militarized police will increasingly be used to quash civil unrest.

I was led to the fight to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. Much as I wish I had been able to do more to stop militarization, I know I have tried to hear what the Spirit was leading me to do. And then do it.

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical

“Hero” isn’t a word I hear much these days, but Martin Luther King, Jr, is one to me. Other heroes are the men and their families who also resisted cooperation with the systems of war. That includes a number of those in my Quaker community. And includes Muhammad Ali. People whose lives reflected their faith and beliefs. Because even as a child it was clear so many people did not do so. This was and continues to be spiritually traumatic.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

Martin Luther King’s beliefs and actions related to racism are well known.

He was late to publicly come out against the Vietnam War and was harshly criticized by most in his own community for doing so. The argument was that would weaken his work against racism. But he could clearly see the ties between racism, capitalism, and militarism.

A historic speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered even 55 years later as one of the most courageous speeches ever made. This speech stated those truths which no other leading political leader or even leading activist was willing to state in such a clear and sharp way.  The reference here is of course to the speech delivered by Dr. King at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4 1967—a speech remembered also as the ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’ speech.

The great importance of this speech is due to several factors. Firstly, he drew a very clear linkage between why a civil rights activist like him has to be a peace activist at the same time. He stated very clearly that the high hopes he had from the poverty program started getting shattered from the time of increased spending on Vietnam war. So he realized that in order to really help the poor it is important also to prevent wars and to have peace. Secondly, he expressed deep regret that it is mainly the children of the poor (black as well as white young men from poor households) who were being sent to fight a very unjust and oppressive war, while they should have been contributing to reducing distress of their own settlements. Thirdly, he exposed the great injustices and bitter realities about US military intervention with such clarity and conviction that it was bound to have a strong nationwide and in fact worldwide impact.

April 4 – Remembering Martin Luther King on his Death Anniversary by Bharat Dogra, Counter Currents, April 4,2022

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one.
Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.
Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

New heroes for me are the young people I’ve been blessed to work with and learn from, particularly in Mutual Aid communities. Working against “capitalist wealth inequality and poverty.”

King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom.”

Conscientious objection and Ukraine

Amid the horrifying situation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was concerned every time I heard that Ukrainian men aged 18 – 60 were banned from leaving the country.

I studied war resistance and conscientious objection extensively while a student at Scattergood Friends School. All males in the US were required to register for the draft at the time of their eighteenth birthday. I was a Senior at Scattergood then (1969). I went through the process of applying for and was granted conscientious objector status while I tried to prepare my family for my decision to turn in my draft cards. Which I did.

This is a bit ironic because Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee discussed conscientious objector counseling at our recent meeting. That was brought up in part related to the war in Ukraine. Also, as an opportunity to engage our youth in discussions related to war and peace. And because of the writings of a member of the yearly meeting. John Griffith and Draft Resistance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a general military mobilization.

In a declaration signed late Thursday, Zelensky said that “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations,” a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv and all Ukraine’s major cities.
It ordered the “conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and other state security services.

At the same time, Ukraine has banned all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.

The statement said that following the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, a temporary restriction had been imposed.

“In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine,” the statement said. “This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration.”

Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country, Zelensky says in new declaration From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Caroll Alvardo, February 24, 2022

A New York Times podcast tells the story of an animator named Tyhran, who unsuccessfully tried to cross the border into Poland.

I can’t imagine myself doing military stuff […] I have no experience in it. I’m afraid of holding a gun […] I cannot imagine myself holding a gun.

Tyhran says he was shamed at the border by guards and others seeking to cross, but may try again to cross illegally.

They are bombing and people are dying. Everyone is running […] They are not going to stop. They just want to destroy.

In Ukraine, the Men Who Must Stay and Fight. As hundreds of thousands of citizens flee the Russian advance, the country’s government has ordered men ages 18 to 60 to remain. New York Times podcast, March 1, 2022

What international law says

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Although it does not specifically guarantee a right to conscientious objection to military service, the UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed this right derives from the protection under the convention.

This means that if a person’s conscience, religion or beliefs conflict with an obligation to use lethal force against other people, their right to conscientious objection to military service must be protected.

Some human rights can be suspended or limited during a public emergency. But the right to freedom of conscience is specifically excluded from this category.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

What should Ukraine do?

The government of Ukraine should cancel its ban on men leaving the country. To maintain it will violate the freedom of conscience of any man who wishes to flee due to a conscientious objection to killing others.

In relation to LGBTQI+ people, the ban could also be regarded as preventing people with a well founded fear of persecution from fleeing to seek refuge outside Ukraine.

More broadly, repealing the departure ban would protect Ukraine from allegations it is failing to protect civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. It is one thing to conscript men into military service, providing training and appropriate equipment (although, even in that case, a right to conscientious objection must be respected).

It is another thing entirely to prevent civilians from escaping a war zone.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022