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Lobby Day Report: Over 40 Lobby for Expanded CO Rights,
May 17, 2005

Ibrahim Ramey of Fellowship of Reconciliation moderated the press conference.

Marian Franz speaks of the financial costs of war at the I Will Not Kill Campaign press conference.

Reverend Osagyefu Sekou (center) and Irving Ruderman (right) visit with Matt Alpert, legislative assistant to Rep. Serrano.

Oskar Castro, of the AFSC National Youth and Militarism Program, speaks  about deceptive recruitment practices at the I Will Not Kill Campaign press conference.

On May 16, over forty people came to DC from as far away as Florida and Indiana for a lobby day to advocate for the rights of conscientious objectors. Participants in this annual event, organized jointly by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) and the Center on Conscience and War (CCW), asked their members of Congress to support legislation affirming conscientious objection by supporting two pieces of legislation.

The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill, which is about to be introduced by John Lewis (D-GA), would allow conscientious objectors to pay their federal taxes into a nonmilitary fund. It has 30 cosponsors to date. The Military CO Act, which is still awaiting a lead sponsor, would ensure the right of an honorable discharge to military COs -- those who experience a change of heart and mind after joining the military.

During the pre-lobbying briefing, J.E. McNeil, executive director of CCW, explained that many members of Congress and their staff don't even know what a conscientious objector is. While the legal definition of a CO is someone who is "opposed to participation in war in any form based on a religious or moral belief", COs exist at many points along a continuum from objecting to "unjust wars" or military combat roles all the way to objecting to financial participation in war.

NCPTF Executive Director Marian Franz reminded us as we lobby to be mindful of the victims of war and to remember that each of us is the world's foremost expert on our own beliefs

At 3:30, lobby day participants gathered in the Capitol for a press conference launching "I Will Not Kill", a campaign to affirm every person's right not to kill. A main focus of this campaign is to educate youth about alternatives to military service and deceptive military recruitment practices. Marian Franz was among the speakers from nine sponsoring organizations. Other speakers included Michael Hoffman from Iraq Veterans against the War and, Dave Robinson from Pax Christi, and Rev. Osagyefu Uhuru Sekou, of Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq.