conscientious objector training

As the country approaches the second anniversary of the war in Iraq, many people are concerned about the possibility of the draft being reinstated, particularly parents with teenagers who are contemplating their futures.

JoKay Dowell, Tahlequah resident and director of the Eagle and Condor Indigenous Peoples' Alliance, is a parent and peace activist concerned about the future of not only her children, but her community and its children.

"I think there probably will be a draft," said Dowell. "Based on President [George] Bush's history, he has no credibility when he says there will be no draft."

Congress brought twin bills, S 89 and HR 163 forward in 2003, introduced by Democratic Representative Charles Rangel and Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings. Titled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, their aim is "to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons (age 18-26) in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills currently sit in the Committee on Armed Services.

Because of the broad scope of these bills, Dowell's organization is conducting workshops on conscientious objectivism.

"We held a workshop in mid-February about the requirements for obtaining conscientious objector status," Dowell said. "What we're trying to do is get the youth and their parents involved, because to become a conscientious objector, you have to demonstrate a long history of faith in that belief. You can't just wake up one day and say, 'Oh, I don't want to fight in this war.'"

Dowell has two daughters, 22 and 14, who have a history of community service, peace activism and spiritual education that would, more than likely, qualify them for conscientious objector status.

The February workshop, co-sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tahlequah, was led by OCU law student James M. Branum and Oklahoma City attorney Rex Friend, a Quaker who has counseled conscientious objectors for many years, including those wishing to leave the military for moral and spiritual reasons.

Friend is a sponsor of the "Spiritual Walk for Peace" and won the NAACP Oklahoma City Volunteer of the Year Award and the Oklahoma Conference of Churches Nonviolent Activist of the Year in 2001. He also won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2004.

Dowell said members of the Alliance will attend a conscientious objector training course led by Branum and Friend in order to better serve area residents who are interested in gaining information.

According to the Selective Service System Web site, HR 163 was defeated in the House of Representatives on Oct. 5, 2004, by a vote of 402-2. This contradicts information circulating on blog-spots on the Internet such as, which states, "On March 31, the Selective Service System will report to President Bush that it is ready to implement a draft within 75 days."

Dowell is not convinced.

"I know this much," Dowell said. "When the war dogs like Bush, [Paul] Wolfowitz, [Dick] Cheney, [Donald] Rumsfeld and others agree to send their children to fight in their war, I'll be interested in discussing whether or not I'll be supportive of sending mine."

Learn more

To learn more about Conscientious Objector Status, visit the Oklahoma Committee of Conscientious Objectors at For information regarding the draft and the Selective Service System, visit

By TEDDYE SNELL, Press Staff Writer
© tahlequah daily press (Oklahoma)

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