Truth commission on conscience in war to meet in US

By staff writers
March 16, 2010

A diverse coalition of forty religious, academic, advocacy and veterans groups will next week in the US to host the first Truth Commission on Conscience in War.

The new initiative will be held at The Riverside Church in New York, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic "Beyond Vietnam" speech.

At the event this Sunday (21 March), commissioners will receive testimony from recent war veterans, religious leaders and legal experts about issues of conscience facing service members serving in war.

"In his Nobel acceptance speech, President Obama argued that nations will at times 'find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified,'" said the Rev Dr Rita Nakashima Brock, Project Director of the Truth Commission. "We are asking: What happens when a service member is asked to fight in a war that he or she believes is not morally justified?"

Current military regulations recognise Conscientious Objector status, but only for those who oppose "war in any form." The Commission's stated goal is to honour and protect freedom of conscience for others.

Joshua Casteel, who served as an Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, will be among those who testify. Casteel grew up an Evangelical Christian and attended West Point. He was featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary, Soldiers of Conscience.

Casteel will be joined by Rev Herman Keizer, Jr., the Commission's Honorary Host. Keizer is a retired Army Chaplain (COL) and former chair of the Naional Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces.

The Riverside Church is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. It has a tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers include: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President William J. Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

A list of commissioners and co-sponsors is available at


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