West Point Graduate Sues Army for Discharge as Conscientious Objector

July 12, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – After being denied recognition as a conscientious objector, U.S. Army Captain Peter D. Brown yesterday asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to order the Army to discharge him because he sincerely believes that Christian principles compel him not to kill or cause injury to others, even his enemies. Captain Brown is represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.

“The NYCLU and the ACLU have long fought for the protection of religious freedom, including the religious freedom of Christian pacifists and other conscientious objectors in the Army,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “Captain Peter D. Brown is entitled to recognition as a conscientious objector because his religious beliefs do not allow him to kill or support the killing of other human beings.”

Captain Brown graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2004, and is currently in Iraq, where he has been temporarily assigned to non-combat duty. Brown was stationed in New York before shipping off to Iraq.

Captain Brown comes from a religious family, but had not felt the conflict between his faith and military service until after his graduation, when he attended a civilian religious education center in Holland and began to examine Scriptures and his beliefs in greater depth. After nearly two years of study, prayer and reflection, Captain Brown said he believes that Jesus “taught that I should bless those who curse me and not fight back against evil with force. I am supposed to love everyone. Killing others is not loving them. And I am even supposed to love our enemies.”

Captain Brown applied for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. His conscientious objector application emphasizes that he is religiously opposed to all war and killing, not just to the current war in Iraq.

The Army chaplain who interviewed Captain Brown found his religious beliefs to be sincere, and the Army’s own Investigating Officer agreed and recommended that Captain Brown be discharged as a conscientious objector. A retired senior Navy chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Bernard R. Wilson, also interviewed Captain Brown and reported that his “convictions are sincere and that he now holds these convictions deeply with all his heart, mind and soul.” Captain Brown also had the support of a retired senior Army chaplain, who recommended that he be discharged as a conscientious objector. In addition, the chaplain member of the three-officer decision making Army Board voted that Captain Brown was sincere and should be discharged as a conscientious objector. He was out-voted, however, by the two other officers on the discharge board.

NYCLU cooperating attorney Deborah Karpatkin said that federal law and Army regulations require discharge from military service of individuals who, after their service begins, show that they have become conscientiously opposed to war in any form, that their opposition is founded on religious training and belief, and that their position is sincere and deeply held.

“Captain Brown has shown that he is a deeply sincere conscientious objector because of his religious training and beliefs,” Karpatkin said. “He meets all the legal requirements for recognition as a conscientious objector and is entitled to immediate honorable discharge from military service. The Army violated his rights by failing to do so.”

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