A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority (1967)
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,, Marcus Raskin, 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
1. An ever growing number of
young American men are finding that the American war in
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 President and ratified by the Senate have the same force as the
Constitution itself. The Charter of the United Nations is such a treaty. The
Charter specifically obligates the
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
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 opposed to 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 choices. For 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 resistance dictated by his conscience and
circumstances. Among those already in the armed forces some are refusing to
obey specific illegal and immoral orders, some are attempting to educate their
fellow servicemen on the murderous and barbarous nature of the wa r some are absenting themselves
without official leave. Among those not in the armed forces some are applying
for status as conscientious objectors to American aggression in
6. We believe that each of these forms of resistance against illegitimate authority is courageous and 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 which 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 will raise funds to organize draft resistance unions, to supply legal defense and bail, to support families and 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 young men 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 fulfilling our responsibilities 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 generation.
9. We call upon all men of good will to join us in this confrontation with immoral authority. Especially 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.