UNITED STATES v. SEEGER(1965)
[ Footnote * ] Together with No. 51, United States v. Jakobson, on certiorari to the same court, and No. 29, Peter v. United States, on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
These three cases involve the exemption claims under 6 (j) of the Universal Military Training and Service Act of conscientious objectors who did not belong to an orthodox religious sect. Section 6 (j) excepts from combatant service in the armed forces those who are conscientiously opposed to participation in war by reason of their "religious training and belief," i. e., belief in an individual's relation to a Supreme Being involving duties beyond a human relationship but not essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code. In all the cases convictions were obtained in the District Courts for refusal to submit to induction in the armed forces; in Nos. 50 and 51 the Court of Appeals reversed and in No. 29 the conviction was affirmed. Held:
Solicitor General Cox argued the cause for the United States in all cases. Assistant Attorney General Miller was with him on the briefs in all cases. Ralph S. Spritzer was with him on the briefs in Nos. 50 and 51, and Marshall Tamor Golding was with him on the briefs in No. 50.
Duane B. Beeson argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner in No. 29.
Kenneth W. Greenawalt argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent in No. 50.
Herman Adlerstein argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent in No. 51.
Briefs of amici curiae, urging affirmance in Nos. 50 and 51 and reversal in No. 29, were filed by Alfred Lawrence Toombs and Melvin L. Wulf for the American Civil Liberties Union, and by Leo Pfeffer, Shad Polier, Will Maslow and Joseph B. Robison for the American Jewish Congress. Briefs of amici curiae, urging affirmance in No. 50, were filed by Herbert A. Wolff, Leo Rosen, Nanette Dembitz and Nancy F. Wechsler for the American Ethical Union, and by Tolbert H. McCarroll, Lester Forest and Paul Blanshard for the American Humanist Association.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases involve claims of conscientious objectors under 6 (j) of the Universal Military Training and Service Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 456 (j) (1958 ed.), which exempts from combatant training and service in the armed forces of the United States those persons who by [380 U.S. 163, 165] reason of their religious training and belief are conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form. The cases were consolidated for argument and we consider them together although each involves different facts and circumstances. The parties raise the basic question of the constitutionality of the section which defines the term "religious training and belief," as used in the Act, as "an individual's belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but [not including] essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code." The constitutional attack is launched under the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and is twofold: (1) The section does not exempt nonreligious conscientious objectors; and (2) it discriminates between different forms of religious expression in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Jakobson (No. 51) and Peter (No. 29) also claim that their beliefs come within the meaning of the section. Jakobson claims that he meets the standards of 6 (j) because his opposition to war is based on belief in a Supreme Reality and is therefore an obligation superior to one resulting from man's relationship to his fellow man. Peter contends that his opposition to war derives from his acceptance of the existence of a universal power beyond that of man and that this acceptance in fact constitutes belief in a Supreme Being, qualifying him for exemption. We granted certiorari in each of the cases because of their importance in the administration of the Act. 377 U.S. 922 .
We have concluded that Congress, in using the expression "Supreme Being" rather than the designation "God," was merely clarifying the meaning of religious training and belief so as to embrace all religions and to exclude essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views. We believe that under this construction, the test of belief [380 U.S. 163, 166] "in a relation to a Supreme Being" is whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption. Where such beliefs have parallel positions in the lives of their respective holders we cannot say that one is "in a relation to a Supreme Being" and the other is not. We have concluded that the beliefs of the objectors in these cases meet these criteria, and, accordingly, we affirm the judgments in Nos. 50 and 51 and reverse the judgment in No. 29.
No. 51: Jakobson was also convicted in the Southern District of New York on a charge of refusing to submit to induction. On his appeal the Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that rejection of his claim may have rested on the factual finding, erroneously made, that he did not believe in a Supreme Being as required by 6 (j). 325 F.2d 409.
Jakobson was originally classified 1-A in 1953 and intermittently enjoyed a student classification until 1956. It was not until April 1958 that he made claim to noncombatant classification (1-A-O) as a conscientious objector. He stated on the Selective Service System form that he believed in a "Supreme Being" who was "Creator of Man" in the sense of being "ultimately responsible for the existence of" man and who was "the Supreme Reality" of which "the existence of man is the result." R. 44. (Emphasis in the original.) He explained that his religious [380 U.S. 163, 168] and social thinking had developed after much meditation and thought. He had concluded that man must be "partly spiritual" and, therefore, "partly akin to the Supreme Reality"; and that his "most important religious law" was that "no man ought ever to wilfully sacrifice another man's life as a means to any other end . . . ." R. 45-46. In December 1958 he requested a 1-O classification since he felt that participation in any form of military service would involve him in "too many situations and relationships that would be a strain on [his] conscience that [he felt he] must avoid." R. 70. He submitted a long memorandum of "notes on religion" in which he defined religion as the "sum and essence of one's basic attitudes to the fundamental problems of human existence," R. 72 (emphasis in the original); he said that he believed in "Godness" which was "the Ultimate Cause for the fact of the Being of the Universe"; that to deny its existence would but deny the existence of the universe because "anything that Is, has an Ultimate Cause for its Being." R. 73. There was a relationship to Godness, he stated, in two directions, i. e., "vertically, towards Godness directly," and "horizontally, towards Godness through Mankind and the World." R. 74. He accepted the latter one. The Board classified him 1-A-O and Jakobson appealed. The hearing officer found that the claim was based upon a personal moral code and that he was not sincere in his claim. The Appeal Board classified him 1-A. It did not indicate upon what ground it based its decision, i. e., insincerity or a conclusion that his belief was only a personal moral code. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that his claim came within the requirements of 6 (j). Because it could not determine whether the Appeal Board had found that Jakobson's beliefs failed to come within the statutory definition, or whether it had concluded that he lacked sincerity, it directed dismissal of the indictment. [380 U.S. 163, 169]
No. 29: Forest Britt Peter was convicted in the Northern District of California on a charge of refusing to submit to induction. In his Selective Service System form he stated that he was not a member of a religious sect or organization; he failed to execute section VII of the questionnaire but attached to it a quotation expressing opposition to war, in which he stated that he concurred. In a later form he hedged the question as to his belief in a Supreme Being by saying that it depended on the definition and he appended a statement that he felt it a violation of his moral code to take human life and that he considered this belief superior to his obligation to the state. As to whether his conviction was religious, he quoted with approval Reverend John Haynes Holmes' definition of religion as "the consciousness of some power manifest in nature which helps man in the ordering of his life in harmony with its demands . . . [; it] is the supreme expression of human nature; it is man thinking his highest, feeling his deepest, and living his best." R. 27. The source of his conviction he attributed to reading and meditation "in our democratic American culture, with its values derived from the western religious and philosophical tradition." Ibid. As to his belief in a Supreme Being, Peter stated that he supposed "you could call that a belief in the Supreme Being or God. These just do not happen to be the words I use." R. 11. In 1959 he was classified 1-A, although there was no evidence in the record that he was not sincere in his beliefs. After his conviction for failure to report for induction the Court of Appeals, assuming arguendo that he was sincere, affirmed, 324 F.2d 173.
The need for conscription did not again arise until World War I. The Draft Act of 1917, 40 Stat. 76, 78, afforded exemptions to conscientious objectors who were affiliated with a "well-recognized religious sect or organization [then] organized and existing and whose existing creed or principles [forbade] its members to participate in war in any form . . . ." The Act required that all persons be inducted into the armed services, but allowed the conscientious objectors to perform noncombatant service in capacities designated by the President of the United States. Although the 1917 Act excused religious objectors only, in December 1917, the Secretary of War instructed that "personal scruples against war" be considered as constituting "conscientious objection." Selective Service System Monograph No. 11, Conscientious Objection 54-55 (1950). This Act, including its conscientious objector provisions, was upheld against constitutional attack in the Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366, 389 -390 (1918).
In adopting the 1940 Selective Training and Service Act Congress broadened the exemption afforded in the 1917 Act by making it unnecessary to belong to a pacifist religious sect if the claimant's own opposition to war was based on "religious training and belief." 54 Stat. 889. Those found to be within the exemption were [380 U.S. 163, 172] not inducted into the armed services but were assigned to noncombatant service under the supervision of the Selective Service System. The Congress recognized that one might be religious without belonging to an organized church just as surely as minority members of a faith not opposed to war might through religious reading reach a conviction against participation in war. Congress Looks at the Conscientious Objector (National Service Board for Religious Objectors, 1943) 71, 79, 83, 87, 88, 89. Indeed, the consensus of the witnesses appearing before the congressional committees was that individual belief - rather than membership in a church or sect - determined the duties that God imposed upon a person in his everyday conduct; and that "there is a higher loyalty than loyalty to this country, loyalty to God." Id., at 29-31. See also the proposals which were made to the House Military Affairs Committee but rejected. Id., at 21-23. 82-83. 85. Thus, while shifting the test from membership in such a church to one's individual belief the Congress nevertheless continued its historic practice of excusing from armed service those who believed that they owed an obligation, superior to that due the state, of not participating in war in any form.
Between 1940 and 1948 two courts of appeals 1 held that the phrase "religious training and belief" did not include philosophical, social or political policy. Then in 1948 the Congress amended the language of the statute and declared that "religious training and belief" was to be defined as "an individual's belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but [not including] essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code." The only significant mention of [380 U.S. 163, 173] this change in the provision appears in the report of the Senate Armed Services Committee recommending adoption. It said simply this: "This section reenacts substantially the same provisions as were found in subsection 5 (g) of the 1940 act. Exemption extends to anyone who, because of religious training and belief in his relation to a Supreme Being, is conscientiously opposed to combatant military service or to both combatant and noncombatant military service. (See United States v. Berman [sic], 156 F. (2d) 377, certiorari denied, 329 U.S. 795 .)" S. Rep. No. 1268, 80th Cong., 2d Sess., 14.
2. Few would quarrel, we think, with the proposition that in no field of human endeavor has the tool of language proved so inadequate in the communication of ideas as it has in dealing with the fundamental questions of man's predicament in life, in death or in final judgment and retribution. This fact makes the task of discerning the intent of Congress in using the phrase "Supreme Being" a complex one. Nor is it made the easier by the richness and variety of spiritual life in our country. Over 250 sects inhabit our land. Some believe in a purely personal God, some in a supernatural deity; others think of religion as a way of life envisioning as its ultimate goal the day when all men can live together in perfect understanding and peace. There are those who think of God as the depth of our being; others, such as the Buddhists, strive for a state of lasting rest through self-denial and inner purification; in Hindu philosophy, the Supreme Being is [380 U.S. 163, 175] the transcendental reality which is truth, knowledge and bliss. Even those religious groups which have traditionally opposed war in every form have splintered into various denominations: from 1940 to 1947 there were four denominations using the name "Friends," Selective Service System Monograph No. 11, Conscientious Objection 13 (1950); the "Church of the Brethren" was the official name of the oldest and largest church body of four denominations composed of those commonly called Brethren, id., at 11; and the "Mennonite Church" was the largest of 17 denominations, including the Amish and Hutterites, grouped as "Mennonite bodies" in the 1936 report on the Census of Religious Bodies, id., at 9. This vast panoply of beliefs reveals the magnitude of the problem which faced the Congress when it set about providing an exemption from armed service. It also emphasizes the care that Congress realized was necessary in the fashioning of an exemption which would be in keeping with its long-established policy of not picking and choosing among religious beliefs.
In spite of the elusive nature of the inquiry, we are not without certain guidelines. In amending the 1940 Act, Congress adopted almost intact the language of Chief Justice Hughes in United States v. Macintosh, supra:
3. The Government takes the position that since Berman v. United States, supra, was cited in the Senate Report on the 1948 Act, Congress must have desired to adopt the Berman interpretation of what constitutes "religious belief." Such a claim, however, will not bear scrutiny. First, we think it clear that an explicit statement of congressional intent deserves more weight than the parenthetical citation of a case which might stand for a number of things. Congress specifically stated that it intended to re-enact substantially the same provisions as were found in the 1940 Act. Moreover, the history of that Act reveals no evidence of a desire to restrict the concept of religious belief. On the contrary the Chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee which reported out the 1940 exemption provisions stated:
As for the citation to Berman, it might mean a number of things. But we think that Congress' action in citing it must be construed in such a way as to make it consistent with its express statement that it meant substantially to re-enact the 1940 provision. As far as we can find, there is not one word to indicate congressional concern over any conflict between Kauten and Berman. Surely, if it thought that two clashing interpretations as to what amounted to "religious belief" had to be resolved. it would have said so somewhere in its deliberations. Thus, we think that rather than citing Berman for what it said "religious belief" was, Congress cited it for what it said "religious belief" was not. For both Kauten and Berman hold in common the conclusion that exemption must be denied to those whose beliefs are political, social or philosophical in nature, rather than religious. Both, in fact, denied exemption on that very ground. It seems more likely, therefore, that it was this point which led Congress to cite Berman. The first part of the 6 (j) definition - belief in a relation to a Supreme Being - was indeed set out in Berman, with the exception that the court used the word "God" rather than "Supreme Being." However, as the Government recognizes, Berman took that language word for word from Macintosh. Far from [380 U.S. 163, 179] requiring a conclusion contrary to the one we reach here, Chief Justice Hughes' opinion, as we have pointed out, supports our interpretation.
Admittedly, the second half of the statutory definition - the rejection of sociological and moral views - was taken directly from Berman. But, as we have noted, this same view was adhered to in United States v. Kauten, supra. Indeed the Selective Service System has stated its view of the cases' significance in these terms: "The United States v. Kauten and Herman Berman v. United States cases ruled that a valid conscientious objector claim to exemption must be based solely on `religious training and belief' and not on philosophical, political, social, or other grounds . . . ." Selective Service System Monograph No. 11, Conscientious Objection 337 (1950). See id., at 278. That the conclusions of the Selective Service System are not to be taken lightly is evidenced in this statement by Senator Gurney, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and sponsor of the Senate bill containing the present version of 6 (j):
Section 6 (j), then, is no more than a clarification of the 1940 provision involving only certain "technical amendments," to use the words of Senator Gurney. As such it continues the congressional policy of providing exemption from military service for those whose opposition [380 U.S. 163, 180] is based on grounds that can fairly be said to be "religious." 3 To hold otherwise would not only fly in the face of Congress' entire action in the past; it would ignore the historic position of our country on this issue since its founding.
4. Moreover, we believe this construction embraces the ever-broadening understanding of the modern religious community. The eminent Protestant theologian, Dr. Paul Tillich, whose views the Government concedes would come within the statute, identifies God not as a projection "out there" or beyond the skies but as the ground of our very being. The Court of Appeals stated in No. 51 that Jakobson's views "parallel [those of] this eminent theologian rather strikingly." 325 F.2d, at 415-416. In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Tillich says:
5. We recognize the difficulties that have always faced the trier of fact in these cases. We hope that the test that we lay down proves less onerous. The examiner is furnished [380 U.S. 163, 184] a standard that permits consideration of criteria with which he has had considerable experience. While the applicant's words may differ, the test is simple of application. It is essentially an objective one, namely, does the claimed belief occupy the same place in the life of the objector as an orthodox belief in God holds in the life of one clearly qualified for exemption?
Moreover, it must be remembered that in resolving these exemption problems one deals with the beliefs of different individuals who will articulate them in a multitude of ways. In such an intensely personal area, of course, the claim of the registrant that his belief is an essential part of a religious faith must be given great weight. Recognition of this was implicit in this language, cited by the Berman court from State v. Amana Society, 132 Iowa 304, 109 N. W. 894 (1906):
But we hasten to emphasize that while the "truth" of a belief is not open to question, there remains the significant question whether it is "truly held." This is the threshold question of sincerity which must be resolved in every case. It is, of course, a question of fact - a prime consideration to the validity of every claim for exemption as a conscientious objector. The Act provides a comprehensive scheme for assisting the Appeal Boards in making this determination, placing at their service the facilities of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and hearing officers. Finally, we would point out that in Estep v. United States, 327 U.S. 114 (1946), this Court held that:
In Seeger, No. 50, the Court of Appeals failed to find sufficient "externally compelled beliefs." However, it did find that "it would seem impossible to say with assurance that [Seeger] is not bowing to `external commands' in virtually the same sense as is the objector who defers to the will of a supernatural power." 326 F.2d, at 853. It found little distinction between Jakobson's devotion to a mystical force of "Godness" and Seeger's compulsion to "goodness." Of course, as we have said, the statute does not distinguish between externally and internally derived beliefs. Such a determination would, as the Court of Appeals observed, prove impossible as a practical matter, and we have found that Congress intended no such distinction.
The Court of Appeals also found that there was no question of the applicant's sincerity. He was a product of a devout Roman Catholic home; he was a close student of Quaker beliefs from which he said "much of [his] thought is derived"; he approved of their opposition to war in any form; he devoted his spare hours to the American [380 U.S. 163, 187] Friends Service Committee and was assigned to hospital duty.
In summary, Seeger professed "religious belief" and "religious faith." He did not disavow any belief "in a relation to a Supreme Being"; indeed he stated that "the cosmic order does, perhaps, suggest a creative intelligence." He decried the tremendous "spiritual" price man must pay for his willingness to destroy human life. In light of his beliefs and the unquestioned sincerity with which he held them, we think the Board, had it applied the test we propose today, would have granted him the exemption. We think it clear that the beliefs which prompted his objection occupy the same place in his life as the belief in a traditional deity holds in the lives of his friends, the Quakers. We are reminded once more of Dr. Tillich's thoughts:
In Jakobson, No. 51, the Court of Appeals found that the registrant demonstrated that his belief as to opposition to war was related to a Supreme Being. We agree and affirm that judgment.
We reach a like conclusion in No. 29. It will be remembered that Peter acknowledged "some power manifest in [380 U.S. 163, 188] nature . . . the supreme expression" that helps man in ordering his life. As to whether he would call that belief in a Supreme Being, he replied, "you could call that a belief in the Supreme Being or God. These just do not happen to be the words I use." We think that under the test we establish here the Board would grant the exemption to Peter and we therefore reverse the judgment in No. 29.
[ Footnote 2 ] See Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Edition); Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1949).
[ Footnote 3 ] A definition of "religious training and belief" identical to that in 6 (j) is found in 337 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 66 Stat. 258, 8 U.S.C. 1448 (a) (1958 ed.). It is noteworthy that in connection with this Act, the Senate Special Subcommittee to Investigate Immigration and Naturalization stated: "The subcommittee realizes and respects the fact that the question of whether or not a person must bear arms in defense of his country may be one which invades the province of religion and personal conscience." Thus, it recommended that an alien not be required to vow to bear arms when he asserted "his opposition to participation in war in any form because of his personal religious training and belief." S. Rep. No. 1515, 81st Cong., 2d Sess., 742, 746.
[ Footnote 4 ] Draft declaration on the Church's relations with non-Christians, Council Daybook, Vatican II, 3d Sess., p. 282, N.C. W. C., Washington, D.C., 1965.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring.
If I read the statute differently from the Court, I would have difficulties. For then those who embraced one religious faith rather than another would be subject to penalties; and that kind of discrimination, as we held in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 , would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It would also result in a denial of equal protection by preferring some religions over others - an invidious discrimination that would run afoul of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. See Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 .
The legislative history of this Act leaves much in the dark. But it is, in my opinion, not a tour de force if we construe the words "Supreme Being" to include the cosmos, as well as an anthropomorphic entity. If it is a tour de force so to hold, it is no more so than other instances where we have gone to extremes to construe an Act of Congress to save it from demise on constitutional grounds. In a more extreme case than the present one we said that the words of a statute may be strained "in the candid service of avoiding a serious constitutional doubt." United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41, 47 . 1 [380 U.S. 163, 189]
The words "a Supreme Being" have no narrow technical meaning in the field of religion. Long before the birth of our Judeo-Christian civilization the idea of God had taken hold in many forms. Mention of only two - Hinduism and Buddhism - illustrates the fluidity and evanescent scope of the concept. In the Hindu religion the Supreme Being is conceived in the forms of several cult Deities. The chief of these, which stand for the Hindu Triad, are Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. Another Deity, and the one most widely worshipped, is Sakti, the Mother Goddess, conceived as power, both destructive and creative. Though Hindu religion encompasses the worship of many Deities, it believes in only one single God, the eternally existent One Being with his manifold attributes and manifestations. This idea is expressed in Rigveda, the earliest sacred text of the Hindus, in verse 46 of a hymn attributed to the mythical seer Dirghatamas (Rigveda, I, 164):
Indian philosophy, which comprises several schools of thought, has advanced different theories of the nature of the Supreme Being. According to the Upanisads, Hindu sacred texts, the Supreme Being is described as the power which creates and sustains everything, and to which the created things return upon dissolution. The word which is commonly used in the Upanisads to indicate the Supreme Being is Brahman. Philosophically, the [380 U.S. 163, 190] Supreme Being is the transcendental Reality which is Truth, Knowledge, and Bliss. It is the source of the entire universe. In this aspect Brahman is Isvara, a personal Lord and Creator of the universe, an object of worship. But, in the view of one school of thought, that of Sankara, even this is an imperfect and limited conception of Brahman which must be transcended: to think of Brahman as the Creator of the material world is necessarily to form a concept infected with illusion, or maya - which is what the world really is, in highest truth. Ultimately, mystically, Brahman must be understood as without attributes, as neti neti (not this, not that). See Smart, op. cit., supra, p. 133.
Buddhism - whose advent marked the reform of Hinduism - continued somewhat the same concept. As stated by Nancy Wilson Ross, "God - if I may borrow that word for a moment - the universe, and man are one indissoluble existence, one total whole. Only THIS - capital THIS - is. Anything and everything that appears to us as an individual entity or phenomenon, whether it be a planet or an atom, a mouse or a man, is but a temporary manifestation of THIS in form; every activity that takes place, whether it be birth or death, loving or eating breakfast, is but a temporary manifestation of THIS in activity. When we look at things this way, naturally we cannot believe that each individual person has been endowed with a special and individual soul or self. Each one of us is but a cell, as it were, in the body of the Great Self, a cell that comes into being, performs its functions, and passes away, transformed into another manifestation. Though we have temporary individuality, that temporary, limited individuality is not either a true self or our true self. Our true self is the Great Self; our true body is the Body of Reality, or the Dharmakaya, to give it its technical Buddhist name." The World of Zen, p. 18 (1960). [380 U.S. 163, 191]
Does a Buddhist believe in "God" or a "Supreme Being"? That, of course, depends on how one defines "God," as one eminent student of Buddhism has explained:
When the present Act was adopted in 1948 we were a nation of Buddhists, Confucianists, and Taoists, as well as Christians. Hawaii, then a Territory, was indeed filled with Buddhists, Buddhism being "probably the major [380 U.S. 163, 192] faith, if Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are deemed different faiths." Stokes and Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States, p. 560 (1964). Organized Buddhism first came to Hawaii in 1887 when Japanese laborers were brought to work on the plantations. There are now numerous Buddhist sects in Hawaii, and the temple of the Shin sect in Honolulu is said to have the largest congregation of any religious organization in the city. See Mulholland, Religion in Hawaii, pp. 44-50 (1961).
In the continental United States Buddhism is found "in real strength" in Utah, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and California. "Most of the Buddhists in the United States are Japanese or Japanese-Americans; however, there are `English' departments in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tacoma." Mead, Handbook of Denominations, p. 61 (1961). The Buddhist Churches of North America, organized in 1914 as the Buddhist Mission of North America and incorporated under the present name in 1942, represent the Jodo Shinshu Sect of Buddhism in this country. This sect is the only Buddhist group reporting information to the annual Yearbook of American Churches. In 1961, the latest year for which figures are available, this group alone had 55 churches and an inclusive membership of 60,000; it maintained 89 church schools with a total enrollment of 11,150. Yearbook of American Churches, p. 30 (1965). According to one source, the total number of Buddhists of all sects in North America is 171,000. See World Almanac, p. 636 (1965).
When the Congress spoke in the vague general terms of a Supreme Being I cannot, therefore, assume that it was so parochial as to use the words in the narrow sense urged on us. I would attribute tolerance and sophistication to the Congress, commensurate with the religious complexion of our communities. In sum, I agree with the Court that any person opposed to war on the basis of a sincere belief, which in his life fills the same place as a belief [380 U.S. 163, 193] in God fills in the life of an orthodox religionist, is entitled to exemption under the statute. None comes to us an avowedly irreligious person or as an atheist; 2 one, as a sincere believer in "goodness and virtue for their own sakes." His questions and doubts on theological issues, and his wonder, are no more alien to the statutory standard than are the awe-inspired questions of a devout Buddhist.
[ Footnote 1 ] And see Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62 ; Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422, 433 ; Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 341 , 348 (concurring opinion).