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February 13, 1969, Vol. XIV, No. 18
Koch Asks Wider C.O. Exemptions
President Nixon should take “immediate action to grant exemption from military service to young men who are conscientiously opposed to the Vietnam war, Congressman Edward I. Koch told a press conference Sunday afternoon.
Koch also asked that “Men who have been convicted of draft evasion or who have fled the country to avoid military service in Vietnam, should be given an opportunity to demonstrate that they were conscientiously opposed to the war” by returning to the U.S. to perform alternative service.
He noted that the nation has long exempted conscientious objectors because of sincere opposition to the war and the military in general, and added: “Objection to engaging in a particular war may stem from the same depth of conscience as resistance to participation in all wars.” It has been reliably estimated that there are between 5000 and 30,000 American emigres in Canada alone, Koch said.
Support for the Koch proposal was voiced at the press conference by Norman Dorsen, professor of constitutional law at NYU, and Reverend Dean Kelley of the National Council of Churches.
Koch said that if Nixon chose not to act by executive fiat, he would either introduce legislation in the Congress or join with other members to co-sponsor legislation having the same effect. “This is really a plea to Nixon to act in accordance with his campaign statements and help bind up the nation’s wounds,” Koch told The Voice.
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