A Call to Resist Illegitimate
This document, published widely in the fall of 1967, became
the main basis for the federal
government's criminal prosecution of five of the signers: Dr. Benjamin Spock,
Mitchell Goodman, Michael Ferber,
and the Reverend William Sloane Coffin.
These men also
turned in to the Justice Department a briefcase filled with draft cards.
To the young men of America, to the whole of the American people,
and to all men of goodwill
1. An ever growing number of young American men are finding that the American war in
outrages their deepest moral and religious sense that they cannot contribute to it in any
way. We share
their moral outrage.
2. We further believe that the war is unconstitutional and illegal. Congress has riot
declared a war as
required by the Constitution. Moreover, under the Constitution, treaties signed by the
ratified by the Senate have the same force as the Constitution itself. The Charter of the
is such a treaty. The Charter specifically obligates the United States to refrain from
force or the threat
of force in international relations. It requires member states to exhaust every peaceful
mean s of settling
disputes and to submit disputes which cannot be settled peacefully to the Security
Council. The United
States has systematically violated all of these Charter provisions for thirteen years.
3. Moreover, this war violates international agreements, treaties and principles of law
which the United
States Government has solemnly endorsed. The combat role of the United States troops in
violates the Geneva Accords of 1954 which our governme nt pledged to support but has since
subverted. The destruction of rice, crops and livestock; the burning and bulldozing of
consisting exclusively of civilian structures; the interning of civilian non-combatants in
camps; the summary executions of civilians in captured villages who could not produce
evidence of their loyalties or did not wish to be removed to concentration camps; the
peasants who dared to stand up in their fields and shake their fists at American
helicopters; - these are
all actions of the kind which the United States and the other victorious powers of World
declared to be crimes against humanity for which individuals were to be held personally
even when acting under the orders of their governments and for which Germans were
Nuremberg to long prison terms and death The prohibition of such acts as war crimes was
incorporated in treaty law by the Geneva Conventi ons of 1949, ratified by the United
are commitments to other countries and to Mankind, and they would claim our allegiance
Congress should declare war.
4. We also believe it is an unconstitutional denial of religious liberty and equal
protection of the laws to
withhold draft exemption from men whose religious or profound philosophical beliefs are
what in the Western religious tradition have be en long known as unjust wars.
5. Therefore, we believe on all these grounds that every free man has a legal right and a
moral duty to
exert every effort to end this war, to avoid collusion with it, and to encourage others to
do the same.
Young men in the armed forces or threatened wit h the draft face the most excruciating
them various forms of resistance risk separation from their families and their country,
destruction of their
careers, loss of their freedom and loss of their lives. Each must choose the course of
dictated by his conscience and circumstances. Among those already in the armed forces some
refusing to obey specific illegal and immoral orders, some are attempting to educate their
servicemen on the murderous and barbarous nature of the wa r some are absenting themselves
official leave. Among those not in the armed forces some are applying for status as
objectors to American aggression in Vietnam, some are refusing to be inducted. Among both
some are resisting o penly and paying a heavy penalty, some are organizing more resistance
United States and some have sought sanctuary in other countries.
6. We believe that each of these forms of resistance against illegitimate authority is
justified. Many of us believe that open resistance to the war and the draft is the course
of action most
likely to strengthen the moral resolve with whic h all of us can oppose the war and most
likely to bring
an end to the war.
7. We will continue to lend our support to those who undertake resistance to this war. We
funds to organize draft resistance unions, to supply legal defense and bail, to support
otherwise aid resistance to the war in whatever ways may seem appropriate.
8. We firmly believe that our statement is the sort of speech that under the First
Amendment must be
free, and that the actions we will undertake are as legal as is the war resistance of the
themselves. But we recognize that the courts may find otherwise, and that if so we might
all be liable to
prosecution and severe punishment. In any case, we feel that we cannot shrink from
responsibilit ies to the youth whom many of us teach, to the country whose freedom we
cherish, and to
the ancient traditions of religion and philosophy which we strive to preserve in this
9. We call upon all men of good will to join us in this confrontation with immoral
we call upon the universities to fulfill their mission of enlightenment and religious
organizations to honor
their heritage of brotherhood. Now is the time to resist.
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