The U.S. Government denies speculation that there are plans to reinstate a draft to supply more troops for the American military in Iraq. According to a story in the Christian Century on January 25, Cassandra Costley, Director of Alternative Service for the U.S. Selective Service, just happened to drop by the Brethren Service Center in Maryland “simply because she was in the area.” The purpose of her non-visit was to urge Brethren Church leaders to re-establish their alternative service programs in case the draft is ever reinstated.

However, a spokesman for the government, in the words of the magazine, “did their best to convince church leaders there is no draft on the horizon.” In any case, Brethren officials are now working on preparations for alternative services and will be meeting with representatives of some of the other peace churches (historically, the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers) in March. They sense the need to coordinate planning for alternative service programs for conscientious objectors [PDF file].

Since there are no plans for a draft, the Amish and Hutterites presumably have no need to review their own history of conscientious objection to military service in America. No one needs to be concerned about the history of abuses those people suffered during World War I, when many of the religious conscientious objectors were drafted, sent to army camps, and tortured by officers and other enlisted men. Men who refused to follow army orders were frequently sentenced to the army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where many were severely abused and two Hutterites were tortured to death (Unruh 1969).

The alternative service programs of World War II and the American wars that followed may have been on the mind of the Alternative Service Director when she happened into the Brethren office. The U.S. Selective Service System still recognizes its obligation to provide for alternative service to the draft for those who refuse to fight.

The Amish and the Hutterites, who are rigidly opposed to all fighting, have benefited from the alternative service programs set up by the more activist peace churches and the U.S. government. During the military drafts and alternative service programs of the post-World War II generation, however, the Old Order Amish did feel the need, in December 1966, to organize an Amish Steering Committee to represent their own needs when they interacted with the Selective Service System (Pratt 2004). Other peace churches, including the well-intentioned Mennonites, had not represented the beliefs of the Amish effectively enough.

Presumably the government will not need to reach out beyond the Brethren to other religious conscientious objectors such as the Amish and the Hutterites since there are clearly no plans for a draft. People of draft age in those two societies have no need to be concerned—unless they remember their own history.