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BALDWIN v. COMMANDING OFFICER PHILADELPHIA NAVAL B

November 19, 1973

Horace Laird BALDWIN
v.
COMMANDING OFFICER PHILADELPHIA NAVAL BASE et al.


Huyett, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUYETT

HUYETT, District Judge.

Petitioner, Horace Laird Baldwin, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (1970) seeking release from the custody of the defendant United States Naval authorities. The basis for petitioner's claim is that the defendants wrongfully rejected petitioner's application for discharge as a conscientious objector.

 Baldwin enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a four (4) year period commencing in October 1966. This period was interrupted when petitioner absented himself from the Navy without authority on May 17, 1969. He returned voluntarily to the Philadelphia Naval Base on May 8, 1973. On August 8, 1973, petitioner was tried by general court-martial for violating Article 86, Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 886, and on that date was convicted and sentenced to be reduced in rank to E-1 and a forfeiture of pay. Petitioner was not sentenced to any confinement nor adjudged any punitive discharge. Currently petitioner is serving as a hospital corpsman assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Base.

 On November 1, 1968, petitioner applied for a discharge as a conscientious objector under Bureau of Naval Personnel Manual (BUPERSMAN) 1860120. The application for discharge contains petitioner's statement discussing the basis and nature of conscientious objection, an amendment to the application setting forth more explicitly petitioner's objection to participation in all wars, letters from five persons in support of the application attesting to petitioner's sincerity and the nature of petitioner's beliefs, a psychiatrist's report, a Chaplain's report, the Commanding Officer's recommendation of disapproval of the application and the company commander's recommendation of approval of the application.

 The application for discharge provides the following description of the nature of petitioner's belief:

 
I worship the ideals of Peace, Truth, and Love as Supreme. If I feel that a situation or action is putting me in conflict with my interpretation of these ideals . . . I believe my first duty is to try to resolve the internal one. I am deeply religious about this struggle for integrity.

 Petitioner further explained that he "grew up with feelings of pacifism derived from the Quaker Sunday School I attended." He joined another peace loving church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, at the age of 16 following the example of his parents. The amended application states:

 
I have become more sure of my objection to war in general since I filed my [original] request [for conscientious objector status] as I explain my views to my fellow servicemen who often want to know why I have not gone to Viet Nam. I was never taught to use the word "sinful", but it is basically what I mean when I speak of immorality.

 The letters submitted in support of the application for discharge relate each writer's conviction that the petitioner's conscientious objector beliefs are sincere. The Chaplain's report also attests to petitioner's sincerity in "strongly [believing] our involvement in Vietnam is aggression [and that] he is still thinking through his thoughts on war in general." The company commanding officer's report states: "Forwarded recommending approval . . . HM3 Baldwin has been extremely intense and sincere." But the commanding officer for the 8th Marines recommended disapproval stating:

 
"It is either stated or implied in enclosures (1), (6) and (7) [in petitioner's application] that HM3 BALDWIN is submitting his request because he believes that our involvement in Vietnam is aggressive, and not that he holds a pacifist attitude toward what he calls a 'defensive' war. In paragraph B.(2) of his own statement, he states he cannot hold a position in any armed force that is pursuing a policy of aggression."

 Petitioner filed on February 5, 1969, an amendment to his original application in which he clarified his opposition to all war.

 On the basis of these documents the Chief of Navy Personnel, on March 20, 1969, denied petitioner's application for discharge. The denial letter stated:

 
Advise HM3 BALDWIN that his request for discharge by reason of conscientious objection was reviewed in the Bureau of Naval Personnel by an established Board which recommended that he not be discharged by reason of conscientious objection. It is considered that his desire to terminate his military service is not based on religious principles. The recommendation of the Board is ...

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