Promoting Support for Conscientious Objection To Military Taxation (COMT) in Religious Bodies

Workshop Number 8

Led by John Stoner

About twenty members of Friends Meetings and Mennonite, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, German Protestant, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Christian, and Church of the Brethren Churches participated.

Discussion focused on two broad topics: promoting support within our own religious communities and connecting with religious communities outside of our own. In both, it was stressed that it is important to develop grassroots support in addition to whatever work one does with the leaders of religious bodies. Without grassroots support, the opposition or indifference of leadership can be a significant obstacle, while the support of leadership alone will not result in much.

It was also stressed that abstract discussion by itself is not usually very effective—the sharing of our particular stories and those of others is more likely to keep people engaged in thought and discussion. Two successful examples of building grassroots communities of support and communicating our message through the concrete and particular were mentioned: “The Peace Factory” interactive display originally created for use in Mennonite communities and now being used by the Lutherans as well; and Jack Jesrial's “Just Church” model, used in some Roman Catholic congregations, in which twelve people not currently active in peace and justice issues, but interested in exploring them, are brought together weekly for a year for study and discernment, then another twelve for another year, and so forth.

Other challenges were also discussed, including how to make radical thinking more mainstream in religious communities, especially those in which members are experiencing growing material prosperity and therefore have a greater personal stake in the status quo.

Scribed by David Mycoff