Will Amish ever face military conscription again? We can’t know the answer to that question, but Amish and other conservative Anabaptists are preparing for such a worst-case scenario.
Amish beliefs about non-resistance include not doing violence against others, extending into prohibitions on serving in law enforcement, political office, and even bringing lawsuits.
Amish have faced the military draft many times in the past, with a number of less-than-favorable outcomes.
These include prison time, alternatives like orderly work in city hospitals, and even paying others to serve in their stead in the Civil War era (see “Military Service and Conscription” by Albert Keim for a good history of Amish and the draft).
While in Ohio last month I heard about a pilot program called the Conservative Anabaptist Service Program (CASP).
This is a proactive effort, going on for a couple of years now, to develop an alternative program of service for Amish and other conservative Anabaptist youth. From the Christian Aid Ministries website:
This program’s purpose is to provide a SSS (Selective Service System) approved place of employment for conscientious objectors to serve, should the draft be activated by the United States government.
Our goal is to provide alternate places of employment that have an ethical and moral environment. Such projects would also benefit our country’s health, safety, and other interests. In order to be prepared for a possible draft and to ensure that the program meets the SSS standards, CASP has operated numerous pilot projects that provide opportunities for service.
A recent news release describes how Indiana Amish CASP volunteers are helping preserve historic cabins in a national park in Maryland. This story (no longer online) describes how CASP workers helped renovate a home for a Kansas woman who lost a leg. Another details how Amish volunteers improved natural areas around Lake Michigan.
The draft ended in 1973, though each American male is required to register with Selective Service on turning 18. This document advises Mennonite and other conscientious objectors how to navigate the draft registration requirement.
Given its unpopularity, and the development of an all-volunteer military, I don’t know how likely it is that the draft will ever return. But by having an alternative program with a track record in place well beforehand, Amish and other conservative Anabaptists hope to be prepared if it does.
CASP volunteer photo: christianaidministries.org