Navy has granted conscientious objector status to 52 since 2003

The Navy has permitted 52 people who have said they could not morally or ethically take part in war to leave the service since 2003.

An ensign on the staff at the Naval Submarine School in Groton became the latest person to be honorably discharged from the Navy as a conscientious objector last week. Based on his Christian beliefs, Michael Izbicki said during training that he could not launch a nuclear missile if ordered to do so.

Izbicki was one of few officers to seek conscientious objector status in the Navy. Seven officers have applied since 2003, and all were granted the status, according to information provided Thursday by the Navy Personnel Command. In the same period, 84 enlisted sailors applied and 45 were approved. The majority of applicants are junior personnel.

A conscientious objector must prove "a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief," according to the Defense Department.

The Navy denied Izbicki's application twice, questioning the "depth and sincerity of his beliefs," according to court paperwork. The American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut and two cooperating attorneys petitioned the federal court in Hartford on Izbicki's behalf. The judge dismissed the case after Izbicki was discharged.

A spokesman for the personnel command, Mike McLellan, said the Navy "decided to take a fresh look" at Izbicki's request, and found that "there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the requirements for this designation," and that "it was in the Navy's best interests to discharge him and seek recoupment of his Navy-funded educational expenses."

In the Navy, the personnel command recommends a figure a conscientious objector must repay based on the cost of the education, prorated based on the amount of time a person had left to serve. The Secretary of the Navy approves or adjusts the figure, which is included in the separation orders.

It costs about $159,000 to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, according to the command. Izbicki graduated from the academy and earned a master's degree in computer science at Johns Hopkins University to further his career as a submariner.

He said Tuesday he had not yet been told the amount he owes.

After the chief of Navy Personnel approves an application, conscientious objectors are not required to repay their wages or cost of living allowances. The office of the Secretary signs off on the denied applications.

The records do not track conscientious objectors by religious affiliation. They are honorably discharged, but they cannot rejoin the military as long as they are a conscientious objector, the personnel command said. They are not barred from federal service.

Izbicki described the process of seeking conscientious objector status as both draining and isolating. He lives at the St. Francis House, a Christian community in New London, but plans to return to his hometown of San Clemente, Calif., with the goal of making the world a better place "in a peaceful manner."

j.mcdermott@theday.com

NAVY NUMBERS

U.S. Navy personnel seeking conscientious objector status, by year

ENLISTED

Fiscal year - Total seeking - Total approved

2003 - 9 - 3

2004 - 9 - 3

2005 - 15 - 7

2006 - 15 - 11

2007 - 8 - 4

2008 - 15 - 8

2009 - 6 - 4

2010 - 7 - 5

OFFICERS

Fiscal year - Total seeking - Total approved

2003 - 0 - 0

2004 - 0 - 0

2005 - 2 - 2

2006 - 1 - 1

2007 - 1 - 1

2008 - 0 - 0

2009 - 2 - 2

2010 - 0 - 0

2011 - 1 - 1

Source: Navy Personnel Command

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