Adopted by the Fourth Biennial Convention, Atlanta, Georgia,
June 19-27, 1968.
War and military service are and always have been a cause of
division among people of conscience. Many choose to bear arms,
recognizing that in a sinful world force is often required to
restrain the evil. Others, unable to reconcile the inhumanity of
war with the demands of love and justice, refuse to participate in
particular wars or in any armed conflict. Still others either enter
the military or seek deferred status without having resolved the
basic ethical dilemmas facing them.
Lutheran teaching, while rejecting conscientious objection as
ethically normative, requires that ethical decisions in political
matters be made in the context of the competing claims of peace,
justice, and freedom. Consequently, one need not be opposed to
participating in all forms of violent conflict in order to be
considered a bona fide conscientious objector. It is in responsible
grappling with these competing claims that a person should consider
participation or nonparticipation in the military.
Consistent with this, the responsible, conscientious choice of
the individual to participate or not to participate in military
service or in a particular war should be upheld and protected. The
office of soldier, like all other temporal offices, is to be held
in esteem by all. At the same time, the conscientious objector
should be accorded respect and such freedom as is consistent with
the requirements of civil order.
Governments have rightly seen fit to provide legal status for
conscientious objectors, allowing them the privilege of performing
alternative service in lieu of military duty. In granting such
status, governments recognize that conscientious objectors may make
a more valuable contribution to their nation in alternative service
than they would if imprisoned or otherwise penalized.
Furthermore, the moral considerations which underlie the stand
of the conscientious objector can have a salutary influence upon a
nation. The ethical sensitivity and human concern represented in
conscientious objection have a value that far outweighs any
potential risk to security involved in granting legal exemption. It
is better for the general well-being that the conscientious
objector be given more than the stark choice between compromised
integrity and imprisonment.
However, legal exemption for the conscientious objector is a
privilege, not a right, which a just government grants in the
interest of the civil good. This does not imply that governments
are required to exempt persons from any legal obligation.
Governments must reserve the right not to grant, or to revoke, the
privilege of legal exemption in situations of clear danger to the
The fact that some persons may falsely exploit conscience to
defend irresponsible disregard for the obligations of citizenship
does not excuse the church from its responsibility of defending the
bona fide conscientious objector. The church must exercise special
care in judging the spirit and motives of those who may call upon
the church for safeguarding in such a position.
Recognizing both the heart-searching of many persons confronted
with the possibility of military conscription and the broader
considerations of justice and public order, the Lutheran Church in
America adopts the following affirmations:
- This church recognizes its responsibility of assisting its
members in the development of mature, enlightened and discerning
consciences. It calls upon its pastors and agencies of Christian
education and social ministry to continue in their efforts to
cultivate sensitive persons who can act responsibly amid the
complexities of the present day.
- This church stands by and upholds those of its members who
conscientiously object to military service as well as those who in
conscience choose to serve in the military. This church further
affirms that the individual who, for reasons of conscience, objects
to participation in a particular war is acting in harmony with
- Governments have wisely provided legal exemption for
conscientious objectors, allowing such persons to do other work of
benefit to the community. While such exemption is in the public
interest, the granting of it does not imply an obligation on the
part of government to provide legal exemption to anyone who finds a
law to be burdensome.
- In the best interest of the civil community, conscientious
objectors to particular wars, as well as conscientious objectors to
all wars, ought to be granted exemption from military duty and
opportunity should be provided them for alternative service, and
until such time as these exemptions are so provided, persons who
conscientiously object to a particular war are reminded that they
must be willing to accept applicable civil or criminal penalties
for their action.
- All conscientious objectors should be accorded equal
treatment before the law, whether the basis of their stand is
specifically religious or not. It is contrary to biblical teaching
(cf. Romans 2:15f) for the church to expect special status for the
Christian or religious objector.
- This church approves provisions whereby persons in the
military who become conscientious objectors are permitted
reclassification and reassignment. This church urges that these
provisions also be extended to the conscientious objector to a
Consistent with these affirmations, the Lutheran Church in
America directs a member who is a conscientious objector to send a
written statement of those convictions to the member's pastor, to
the synod bishop and the secretary of the church. Pastors of the
church are directed to minister to all in their care who are