Alaska paratrooper to get conscientious objector status, discharge

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Army to grant conscientious objector status and an honorable discharge to Pfc. Michael Barnes, a Fort Richardson-based paratrooper who said he experienced a religious awakening in Iraq two years ago that left him opposed to war in any form.

The decision by U.S. District Judge John Sedwick supersedes the Army’s decision last year to deny Barnes’ request.

Military investigators failed to provide “a basis in fact” to support their contention that Barnes is insincere in professing religious objections to war, Sedwick said, and testimony by a chaplain, a psychiatrist, fellow soldiers and Barnes himself proved the contrary.

I think this is the right decision. But on the BBC’s program World Have Your Say a couple callers argued that volunteers to the military shouldn’t be allowed to change their mind. What do you think?

Another caller complained that non-religious persons should also be allowed to claim conscientious objector status. Any thoughts on that?

Good for him, and good on the courts.

Absolutely. I have a sense of ethics same as anyone who goes to church, and it says ‘don’t kill people’.

It is a difficult question when someone is already in the military and has a change of heart. It seems that there needs to be a thorough and impartial investigation such as happened in this case. Of course it might also be possible to have the person re-assigned to a non-combat job for the remainder of their tour of duty.

As to “non-religious” being allowed to claim conscientious objector status, that is an even more difficult question. As a matter of principle, I think that Non-religious should have equal access to this. However the problem would be one of how to determine the sincerity and validity of the claim.


I agree that it was the correct decision. I think it is important to consider how, when faced with the reality of war, as oppossed to the academic understanding one might have when a safe civilian, can alter one’s beliefs on war and violence in general. Seeing war movies, reading about war, even seeing war footage on film, I’m willing to bet that none of that really prepares a persons psyche for the cold, ugly reality of violent death, the horror of actually taking another life. And modern warfare leads to so much “collateral” damage. Plus, you become more aware of the humanity of those you kill - they are no longer abstract “enemies”. Personally, I’m surprised that this type of thing doesn’t happen more often.

As to folks who fall into the “non-religious” category, yes I think they too should be able to opt out for the same reasons. You don’t have to be “religious” to see the value of human life, and the value of your own conscience (despite the claims of some religious folks to the contrary :wink: )

two COs have been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in noncombat roles (medics, WW2 and VN). he could have been retrained and reassigned as such and never offered violence again. I see he made his case and was discharged honorably, but I wouldn’t shake his hand.

Your word given is your word given.

If a war is just or not is not of the soldiers concern.

Only in an attack to the Church does the soldier have the obligation to stop fighting.

There is a famous example of a catholic allied sniper who was about to shoot a german who stopped in a place.

Just that when he was going to pull the trigger he saw the german pull out a rosary and begin to pray.

What is the moral obligation of the sniper?

To kill the german.

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