August 29, 2013

The Aug. 24 news article “Army psychiatrist guilty of killing 13 at Fort Hood” stated that Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan “gave a presentation to senior Army doctors in which he discussed Islam and suicide bombers and warned that Muslims should be allowed to leave the armed forces as conscientious objectors to avoid ‘adverse events.’ ”

The Defense Department recognizes only absolute conscientious objection based on religious, moral or ethical objection to “participation in war in any form.” That policy, which excludes selective conscientious objectors, discriminates against people who find some but not all wars morally objectionable. Selective conscientious objectors include adherents of the Just War tradition (this includes most Christians and many atheists) and Muslims (whose religion, many Muslims believe, teaches that it is wrong to wage war against other Muslims).

Maj. Hasan’s opening fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood was indefensible. Governments should not make policy in response to threats. Nonetheless, tragedy should not prevent us from doing what is right. Establishing, in law, protection for all conscientious objectors, including selective conscientious objection, would help to create a military environment that best honors religious diversity, respects moral integrity and promotes genuine trust among soldiers.

Bill Galvin, Washington

George Clifford, Raleigh, N.C.

The writers are, respectively, the counseling coordinator at the Center on Conscience and War and the vice chair of the center’s board of directors.