Conscientious Objection to War

What is a conscientious objector?


  • A conscientious objector (CO) is a person who believes that it is wrong to kill another human being in war.


  • The U.S. Department of Defense defines conscientious objection as a “firm, fixed and sincere objection to war in any form or the bearing of arms” because of deeply-held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. (


  • The American Friends Service Committee defines a conscientious objector as someone who has sincere, deeply-held beliefs that make him or her object to fighting in war. By the U.S. military’s definition, COs are service members or draftees who have come to believe because of religious or moral reasons that they cannot participate in any war. Most human rights organizations and advocates, as well as some countries, have a broader definition. They believe that conscientious objection can be motivated by other factors, such as politics, and that people can be “selective COs,” meaning that they object only to certain types of war, such as offensive wars or nuclear wars. (


  • According to , a conscientious objector is a person who, on the grounds of conscience, resists the authority of the state to compel military service. Such resistance, emerging in time of war, may be based on membership in a pacifistic religious group, such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Dukhobors, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or on personal religious or humanitarian convictions.