The reaction of churches to President's Carter's proposal to reinstitute registration for the military draft has ranged from cool to downright defiant.
With few exceptions, the issue for church groups is not the question of drafting women, which has tended to preoccupy the media, but registration itself.
Last week the executive committee of the National Council of Churches overwhelmingly approved a resolution opposing the registration. The NCC committee urged its denominations to take a similar stand and to put their beliefs into practice by pressuring Congress to withhold the necessary funds for the registration program.
The organization of mainline Protestantism also called on member churches to organize and support educational efforts and counseling programs for young people who would have to register.
The adminstration board of the U.S. Roman Catholic heirarchy said it had "no objection in principle" to registration, in the light of what it said was the right of the state "to register citizens for the purpose of military conscription," both in times of peace and war.
But the bishops added, "We believe it necessary to present convincing reasons for this at any particular time." They stopped short of saying whether Carter had made a "convincing" case for registration at this time.
They did oppose "any reinstitution of military conscritpion except in the case of a national defense emergency. We support the present standby draft system which requires the chief executive to obtain a new authorization to induct a specific number of men into the armed forces if clear purposes of adequate defense demand conscription."
Both the Catholic bishops and the Protestant and Eastern Orthodox policy makers of the NCC unequivocally supported the right of conscientious objection to military service.
Both the Catholic bishops and the NCC leaders drew on previous theologically based positions in taking their current stands.
The Catholic bishops turned thumbs down on the conscription of women, although they acknowledged it remains " a complex question."
They asserted that "the past practice of making military service an option for women but not an obligation has served us well as a society. We do not see good reasons for changing this practice, and so we oppose both the registration and the conscription of women."
The NCC did not deal with the question of drafting women, other than to assert that "the institutions of racism, sexism and economic discrimination are exacerbated by the military."
While Jewish organizations have yet to take a stand on the registration question as a whole, Orthodox Jewish leaders opposed drafting women.
"Drafting women and having them occupy the same barracks as men and fight in isolated posts over extended periods creates tensions and temptations which are morally unwholesome," said Rabbi Bernard Resensweig and Julius Berman in a joint statement. The two head the rabbinical and the congregational organizations of Orthodox Judaism.
Shawn Perry of the National Interreligious Serivce Board for Conscientious Objectors here said his organization is "getting an overwhelming reaction from religious groups" seeking information about conscientious objectors.
Many of the requests, he said, are coming from Catholic Youth Organizations as well as from Protestant and Jewish groups.
Perry's group is distributing what he called a "worksheet on war, so that conscientious objectors can make a record of their convictions" in case their request for that status may be challenged at some future date. "We recommend that they do that,' he said.