Peace is more than a buzzword. For Quakers and advocates across the world, it is a calling, a way of life that affirms our faith, our morals, and our collective humanity. And throughout U.S. history, few things have challenged that commitment to living in peace more than the military draft.
That’s what makes the recent introduction of the Selective Service Repeal Act (H.R. 2509/S. 1139) so critical. The bill, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13), Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), and Sen. Rand Paul (KY), would prevent the enactment of a military draft ever again.
Rep. DeFazio outlined the urgency of this legislation:
“The military draft registration system is an unnecessary, wasteful bureaucracy which unconstitutionally violates Americans’ civil liberties and unfairly subjects individuals who fail to register for the draft to unnecessarily severe, lifelong penalties – penalties which disproportionately affect low-income Americans.”
Friends have consistently opposed mandatory military conscription in the past, and we have repeatedly called for its abolishment. With the introduction of this bipartisan groundbreaking bill, we are once again compelled to call for the elimination of the draft.
Under the Selective Service System (SSS), every man aged 18 to 26 is required to register for a potential military draft. Those who refuse could face jail time, fines, or a denial of access to federal benefits, including students grants and loans. For Quakers—and all those who view peace and non-violence as core values—this creates an agonizing dilemma.
To register means that one day, if Congress authorizes a draft, you will have to decide between the call of your faith and the call of your government. The United States was founded as a safe harbor for freedom of conscience, but the draft stands firmly in opposition to that principle.
We are once again compelled to call for the elimination of the draft.
And the argument for repealing the draft extends beyond the philosophical. The SSS is an economic burden, costing more than $800 million over the last 35 years to administer. Politicians, government officials, and thought leaders from across the ideological spectrum have argued for years that there is no national security benefit to its existence. Since the draft was reinstated in 1980, it has served no purpose except to violate civil liberties with a hefty price tag.
This is a crucial window of opportunity—now is the time for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to demonstrate that there is broad support for abolishing the draft. Urge your lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors and take a stand for peace and civil liberties.
We seek a world free of war and the threat of war, and we seek a society with equity and justice for all. By building momentum to eliminate the SSS, we can take a tangible step towards both.