Conscription and the First Amendment

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When I decided
to rejoin my high school's debate team this year my only hope was
that this year's topic would be something I could truly get passionate
about. This time it offered one topic to which I could give my heart.
The whole gist of the resolution was that the United States Federal
government should get more people to serve in the military, Peace
Corps, Americorps, or any of their many other corps in any
way they saw fit. This of course is the way things work under the
modern system of democratic mob rule.

As I traveled
through the season I noted the complete lack of mention of the Constitution
or anything related to it. I didn't think that such things were
cared about much these days, and being a libertarian that saddened
me but I could not let philosophy get in the way of things. This
was until I realized a little remembered fact about debate; it has
to fit current legal standing and the affirmative team can only
create a policy and not destroy older laws unless explicitly stated.
The Constitution is the central law of the nation, and changing
it is no option since we go under set law. That was when I switched
my tactics to use constitutional arguments against the affirmative
team's plans.

I knew
where exactly to go to find arguments against conscription based
on the Constitution, to the last site with any respect for true
rule of law, I searched high and low on LRC and
was surprised by the sheer amount of arguments revolving around
conscription from a whole slew of writers. Of course most of these
arguments revolved around the notion that the draft/national service
is slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment always seemed to come up.
Of course forced labor of any kind is slavery but some people refuse
to see that. Since philosophical arguments do not fly so well in
formal debates, I had to stick to the Constitution.

That was
when I composed one of my own that I had never seen on LRC or any
other sites I searched for that matter. This is the argument that
conscription violates the First Amendment. This may seem somewhat
out of place since issues of First Amendment generally revolve around
free speech and freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is where
it ties in. It especially ties in when you speak of "alternative
service" such as what Charles Rangel proposes in his national
service bill for conscientious objectors. The Supreme Court has
ruled that religious pacifists are exempt from the draft as conscientious
objectors, and since Rangel, the Progressive Policy Institute, and
other proponents of the draft will leave no child unconscripted,
they avoid the pesky exemption by proposing "civilian service"
instead of the draft.

I did some
research about certain religious groups and found some interesting
things. There are those (Jehovah's Witnesses for example) who have
a religious objection to placing anything above God, including
the State. There are some religious traditions that prohibit adherents
from even singing the national anthem or saluting the flag since
to them nationalism is idolatry. This of course means that there
are not just conscientious objectors to military service, but to
all State service. Conscription, no matter what its form, violates
the free exercise of religion.

I had to
be careful when using this example in a high school debate. I don't
ever drag religion into debates, but since I go to a Christian school
there are certain people in the politically correct crowd who may
see any mention of anything related to it in a debate as dragging
my religion into it. Some may see it as an absolutist position with
regards to religion, instead I see it as an absolutist stance of
the First Amendment; "No means no," as Hugo Black once

I bit my
tongue and used as many constitutional arguments as I could in the
actual debates and people were shocked when I used the highest law
of the land. They argued in vain that the benefits of "their"
(or really Chuck Rangel's) conscription plan outweighed the law.
In the end, I did not always win but the Constitution helped me
win those debates I did and do better in those that I did not. In
the end I also hope that a few of my opponents from other schools
decided to take an actual look at the Constitution when they realized
not doing so hurt them. I did, and it helped, and not just the Thirteenth

When a policy
is unjust and unconstitutional you cannot leave any part of the
document unturned because it may violate in more ways than the obvious.
After having some success with the First Amendment, I decided that
this needed to be brought out so I emailed Lew Rockwell and told
him about it. I thought it was something that needed to be brought
up. I am not a professor of Constitutional Law, a Supreme Court
Justice, or anything special, I am just one of those rare citizens
who actually did research.

9, 2006

Austin Post [send
him mail
] is a high school student from the Midwest.

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