Pacifists

From Ohio History Central

Pacifists are people who are opposed to war for moral or religious reasons. Some pacifists are opposed to all wars, regardless of the war's causes, while others only oppose wars that they believe are based upon immoral justifications.

Although pacifists were certainly in the minority at the beginning of World War I, there were a number of prominent Americans who opposed the war. Among those in opposition to American involvement in the war were Henry Ford and famous Progressive reformers Jane Addams and Robert M. LaFollette. A small number of well-known Ohioans were also pacifists. Congressman Isaac Sherwood was the only Ohio representative to vote against American entry into World War I. Herbert S. Bigelow, the Cincinnati minister associated with passage of initiative and referendum, was branded a traitor by his fellow Cincinnatians when he spoke out against the war.

When pacifists are conscripted into military service, many refuse to participate in military activities. These Americans are commonly known as conscientious objectors. In many cases, pacifists believe that it is immoral to kill another human being. In Ohio, the Amish and the Mennonites have been conscientious objectors. Many Quakers (Society of Friends) and Seventh-Day Adventists are also pacifists.

In World War I, conscientious objectors who were drafted into the military and refused to serve were often given the option to work in hospitals or in other support efforts instead. Some agreed to this alternative, but others refused to do anything that would contribute to the American war effort. Some conscientious objectors were even sentenced to jail time for their failure to serve if drafted. Pacifists were often harassed by other Ohioans, who viewed them as unpatriotic.

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