1957 July 15

Daniel Seeger Claims CO Status – Begins Road to Supreme Court

 

Daniel Seeger wrote to his draft board on this day, declaring himself a conscientious objector. His case led to the Supreme Court decision, Seeger v. United States, decided on March 8, 1965, which greatly expanded the grounds for conscientious objection to participation in war. Conscientious objection did not have to be based on the belief in a supreme being but could be based on a “sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those” who did believe in a supreme being.

Seeger’s case began years before the American involvement in the Vietnam War escalated (including the selective service draft), but the Supreme Court’s decision had a significant impact on those claiming objector status during the war. (Daniel Seeger is not related to the famous folk singer Pete Seeger.)

Read the Chapter on Seeger: Peter Irons, The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court (1990)

Learn more about COs in the Vietnam War: James Tollefson, The Strength Not to Fight: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors of the Vietnam War (1993)

Learn about the rights of COs today at the GI Rights Hotline here.

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