This article examines the Supreme Court's role in the development of federal conscientious objector policy in the twentieth century. Focusing on two key periods—the three years following the end of World War II, and the era of the Vietnam War—I argue that the policy's evolution was more complex than previous studies have indicated, and that the Court's changing attitudes toward conscientious objection can be traced to the justices' increasing but irresolute concern for civil liberties. By the early 1970s, the Court was interpreting federal statutes much more broadly than Congress ever intended, but the justices remained divided over just how broad those interpretations should be. While the end of the draft rendered the question of compulsory military service moot, the Court's failure to arrive at a clear position on conscientious objection has had lasting implications on other issues.


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pp. 303-325
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