Meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt
In the years leading up to the outbreak of World War II and the participation of the United States, the Historic Peace Churches were proactive in trying to secure protections for conscientious objectors if a draft returned to American society. In attempting to do this, representatives from the Peace Churches met with President Roosevelt in 1937 and again in 1940 after the war in Europe began.
At the meeting on January 10, 1940, Peace Church representatives outlined their central positions on conscientious objection and alternative service. In the event of a draft, the representatives, asked for a civilian board to oversee, classify, and assign conscientious objectors. They stated their desire that draft boards would send all COs to this civilian board, and they offered to create and administer the alternative service work programs for COs in lieu of military service.
The 1940 meeting with Roosevelt did little to sway him in his views of conscientious objectors. In fact, later that year, as the Peace Churches and the Selective Service began to develop a program of alternative service, Roosevelt said that he believed COs should be drilled by military officers. However, the January meeting serves as proof that the Historic Peace Churches remained proactive in their quest to gain more acceptable provisions for conscientious objectors as the possibility of conscription became stronger.