any form may take years to develop; it may take only days. The timing is irrelevant. Shaffer v. Schlesinger, supra, at 130. Indeed, petitioner's delay is equally consistent with a conclusion that petitioner all the more carefully considered the conflict between his duty to his country and his duty to his conscience and finally determined that his conscience would not permit him to serve any longer.
The Navy's reliance on his enlisting after he became a born-again Christian is also misplaced. A person in the position of the petitioner here, who has suddenly come to a new and different religious understanding, is quite likely to develop a sincere, doctrinally based opposition to war only after he or she has had time to appreciate the full significance of the original religious awakening. Petitioner's experience in the Navy may well have stimulated the growth in his appreciation of his church's teaching. The profound effects of contact with the machines of war on a person's attitude toward war and religious beliefs is a subject of common knowledge.
Since the timing of petitioner's decision to seek a conscientious objector discharge is without significance, it cannot constitute a basis in fact supporting the Navy's decision. See also Shaffer v. Schlesinger, supra, at 130.
The investigating officer also noted that the petitioner requested his assignment to duty in the Mediterranean. However, since petitioner requested this assignment before he finally determined that his conscience prohibited him from serving in the Navy any longer, the making of the request is not probative of the state of his beliefs at the time he decided to apply for a discharge. Moreover, the mere request does not compel the conclusion that petitioner was an eager or even a willing serviceman. It is equally persuasive that petitioner may have decided that such a change of duty would help resolve his doubts. The investigating officer stated that he understood petitioner to have requested Mediterranean duty "in order to get another view of the Navy." Complaint, Ex. C, at 2.
Petitioner's mere acceptance of promotions similarly does not provide a factual basis for the Navy's decision. Promotions mean not only greater responsibility but higher pay. Moreover, the Court fails to understand why accepting the responsibilities of Petty Officer Second Class logically suggests that the petitioner must not be truly opposed to war in any form. Such a rank hardly puts the petitioner in a policy-making position to determine the war-time naval strategy or tactics or automatically in a more combative role than he held before promotion. While Petty Officer Second Class may make petitioner directly or indirectly responsible for the destruction of a greater number of lives in time of war, it is improper and unrealistic simply to assume that the petitioner knew or even considered this possibility in accepting the promotion.
The investigating officer also relied upon petitioner's acceptance of a job as a college security guard carrying a gun. Closer examination of the facts of petitioner's employment reveals it to be wholly inadequate to support the Navy's decision. When petitioner was first hired, the job consisted of nothing more than checking stickers on cars in a college parking lot. It was only after petitioner had worked there a month that he was asked to carry a gun and roam the grounds. When he was later involved in an incident which nearly required a fellow guard to use force, petitioner resigned. These facts lend no support to the Navy's decision; but, to the contrary, they weigh against it.
The Court also fails to see any significance in petitioner's assignment to the "SOAP Team." At the time he accepted the assignment, petitioner was still bound to remain in the Navy. Petitioner's sincerity cannot be questioned merely because he accepted new duties, which he may well have sought only to make his continued service more bearable.
Lastly, the investigating officer questioned petitioner's sincerity because of his lack of familiarity with the doctrines of the Church of the Brethren. It is well settled that one need not be a theologian to qualify as a conscientious objector. Kemp v. Bradley, 457 F.2d 627, 629 (8th Cir. 1972); Helwick v. Laird, 438 F.2d 959, 964 (5th Cir. 1971). It is enough that the petitioner, unlettered though he may be, possesses an understanding of church doctrine which leads him to a sincere opposition to war in any form.
Having found the investigating officer's report devoid of facts supporting the Navy's decision, the Court turns to the commanding officer's report. The commanding officer, however, relied in large part on the investigating officer's report and the "inconsistencies" suggested therein. Since the Court has already held that the investigating officer's report fails to provide a basis in fact for the Navy's decision, the commanding officer's report must also fail to the extent it incorporates by reference the report of the investigating officer. To the extent the commanding officer's report is based on his own impressions, garnered in personal interviews with the petitioner, the report is also insufficient. The report states no more than a conclusion that petitioner is not sincerely opposed to war in any form. This is not enough. To withstand judicial review, the report must contain facts which support that conclusion. If the conclusion is based on the applicant's lack of credibility, the report should at least note what aspect of petitioner's demeanor betrayed his true beliefs. Nothing like that is suggested here. Therefore, the Court must reject the commanding officer's report as a basis in fact for the Navy's decision.
(B) Petitioner's Position as Head of Household
The second reason for the Navy's decision was based on a statement that petitioner made in his application: "I have a place as Head of Household and a responsibility to my family." The Navy concluded from this that petitioner's request for discharge was based on his dissatisfaction with his duty assignments and family separation and not on his religious beliefs.
The Court cannot accept this inference. Petitioner's application makes it clear that his desire to return to his family had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the Navy. On the contrary, petitioner sought merely to fulfill his appointed role in the family as taught by his religion. This is explained in the remainder of the very paragraph from which the Navy excised the quoted sentence:
I along (sic ) am responsibility (sic ) to Christ for my family. My wife is not, she is to submit to me, and I must submit to the Lord. She should not have to take the responsibility of running the home, it's not her place to do so.