Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History
SUPREME COURT HISTORY
Law, Power & Personality
Supreme Inspiration
E-Mail this Page Glossary

Seeking Insights in the Great BooksSeeking Insights in the Great Books
The Bible Poetry Greeks & Romans Literature Philosophy Shakespeare Scientists, Futurists & Economists
Literature

Conscientious Objection
"Van der Veer refuses military service, not because he follows the commandment. 'Thou shalt do no murder,' not because he is a Christian, but because he holds murder to be opposed to human nature."
Tolstoy

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
Gillette

v.

United States
Conscientious Objection

Justice Douglas Dissent
March 8, 1971
Seal Of The Supreme Court
Excerpt:

Gillette's objection is to combat service in the Vietnam War, not to wars in general, and the basis of his objection is his conscience. His objection does not put him into the statutory exemption which extends to one "Who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form."

...The question, can a conscientious objector, whether his objection be rooted in "religion" or in moral values, be required to kill? has never been answered by the Court.

... Conscience is often the echo of religious faith. But, as this case illustrates, it may also be the product of travail, meditation, or sudden revelation related to a moral comprehension of the dimensions of a problem, not to a religion in the ordinary sense.

Tolstoy wrote of a man, one Van der Veer, "Who, as he himself says, is not a Christian, and who refuses military service, not from religious motives, but from motives of the simplest kind, motives intelligible and common to all men, of whatever religion or nation, whether Catholic, Mohammedan, Buddhist, Confucian, whether Spaniards or Japanese."

Van der Veer refuses military service, not because he follows the commandment, "Thou shalt do no murder," not because he is a Christian, but because he holds murder to be opposed to human nature."


Excerpt:

Tolstoy

"Van der Veer says he is not a Christian. But the motives of his refusal and action are Christian. He refuses because he does not wish to kill a brother man; he does not obey, because the commands of his conscience are more binding upon him than the commands of men... Thereby he shows that Christianity is not a sect or creed which some may profess and others reject; but that it is naught else than a life's following of that light of reason which illumines all men ...Those men who now behave rightly and reasonably do so, not because they follow prescriptions of Christ, but because that line of action which was pointed out eighteen hundred years ago has now become identified with human conscience."



NEXT BACK