SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Mennonite Mission Network) – On April 20, Mennonite Voluntary Service and the Selective Service entered into an agreement making MVS an officially recognized employer for conscientious objectors, should the draft ever be reinstated.*
“I have appreciated the opportunity to learn about Mennonites, and we are proud that our first agreement of this kind could be with the Mennonites,” said Selective Service Director Lawrence Romo. “It’s important to respect each other's religions. It is a founding principle of the United States, and so it’s important to have a robust alternative service program.”
Romo and Mennonite Mission Network Executive Director/CEO Stanley Green signed and solidified this agreement during a ceremony at San Antonio (Texas) Mennonite Church. This is the first agreement of its kind to be signed by the Selective Service in 25 years, and makes MVS an official member of the Alternative Service Employer Network.
“The importance of this signing is that it ensures that, in the event of a draft, people who have convictions about war and come from historic peace church backgrounds can serve their country with their convictions in tact,” said Green. “We believe it is just as patriotic to serve human need in our country as it is to serve through war.”
The agreement has been in the works for six years, and is the first of its kind to be signed. Costley and Romo hope the agreement between MVS and Selective Service will serve as a prototype for other such agreements.
“Most people don’t know about the options for alternative service,” said Cassandra Costley, alternative service manager for the Selective Service and the staff member who helped negotiate this agreement with MVS. “We believe this mission is equally as important as preparing for the draft.”
Costley lauded conscientious objectors throughout history who have committed to alternative service in the United States because of the sincerity of their beliefs.
“Many conscientious objectors have put themselves in great danger through service, but they have simply refused to take up arms against others,” she said. “Once America understands who conscientious objectors were in our past, they will better understand who they could be in our future.”
MVS has been providing opportunities for adults age 20 and over to serve alongside communities across the United States since 1946. Adults have the opportunity to serve for one or more years and to live in intentional communities. Currently, MVS hosts 93 participants at 23 different locations.
“MVS has a rich and long history, and this partnership with the Selective Service gives us an understanding and a way to keep moving forward to provide service for young Mennonites and also for other conscientious objectors,” said Hugo Saucedo, director of MVS and a San Antonio resident. “We believe in the importance of service, whether it’s because of the draft or because it’s a lifestyle. For us, it’s definitely been a lifestyle.”
During the ceremony, Saucedo, Director Romo and Green each gave short remarks. After the signing, the floor was opened for questions from spectators.
For more information about MVS, visit Service.MennoniteMission.net.
*Correction: Due to a source error, an earlier version of this story claimed MVS was the first faith-based program to be an official alternative service option through Selective Service. In fact, previous alternative service programs, including Civilian Public Service during World War II, had various arrangements with Selective Service. Before the agreement between MVS and Selective Service, no conscientious objector agreements had been signed for more than 25 years.