AFFIDAVIT OF MY HEARING BEFORE SELECTIVE SERVICE
LOCAL BOARD NUMBER 11 AT 88 EAST POST ROAD, WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK
17 OCTOBER 1967
I, George James Kates, a twenty-two year old male residing at 693 Park Avenue, Rochester, New York, depose that I was present at a Selective Service hearing concerning my status as a conscientious objector on the afternoon of 17 October 1967, and that the hearing proceeded as follows:
I was allowed to have with me during the hearing, as a witness, Anne (Mrs. Maxwell) Geismar of Winfield Avenue, Harrison, New York. She was permitted to sit in on the hearing, but not permitted to speak.
The board chairman asked me what my problem was.
I answered that I had no problem, but that I was present to clarify my stand as a conscientious objector. I stated that my basic views were defined in two letters which I had sent to the board on the 30th of September 1966 and on the 15th of September 1967. I asked the board if they had read my letters.
The chairman replied, “We have too much work to do, we don’t read all that stuff.”
At the request of the board, I then outlined my position according to my letter of 30 September 1966, saying that I objected to killing in any form and by any name.
[That letter read, in part: “The responsibility for killing another man is one which I refuse to take upon myself, if I can possibly avoid it. That responsibility is not obviated by a degree of removal from the act, nor by a juggling of words in an attempt to condone such an act.”]
One member of the board asked me if I objected to protecting my country.
I replied (as in the letter) “At best I am faced with a conflict of responsibilities, and I have to choose between them. I could not take upon myself the responsibility of murder.”
The chairman of the board stated that only two religious groups were automatically entitled to 1-0 classification, the Quakers and the Seventh Day Adventists. He asked me what my religion was.
I answered, “I am not affiliated with any formal religious body.”
The chairman of the board asked me if I was willing to undertake alternate service.
I said I was, any service as long as I was not compelled to serve in a military capacity of any kind.
One board member said, “You wouldn’t say that if you had ever been shot at.”
I replied, “I have been shot at.”
He asked, “When?”
I answered that I had been in Mississippi in the summers of 1964 and 1965.
The chairman of the board then asked me, “Were you one of the three who were killed?” He began laughing; so did the other board members.
I replied, “Obviously not, and I don’t consider it a laughing matter.”
The chairman then stated again that Quakers and Seventh Day Adventists only were eligible for I-0 classification.
One of the board members asked me what my religion was.
“I am not affiliated with any organized religious body,” I replied again, and I explained briefly the nature of my spiritual beliefs and why I considered them irrelevant. I used the analogy that, “if a child is good only while its parents are watching, we do not consider him a good child. If I were good according to my lights only because I thought God was overseeing my actions, I would be false.”
The chairman said, “We all feel like that.”
One board member asked me where I lived. I replied, “Rochester, New York.”
“No,” he said. “Where did you live in White Plains?”
The board chairman and I replied simultaneously, “Ogden Avenue.”
“Where’s that?” one member asked.
Another replied, “In the Highlands. Right near where I live.”
The chairman of the board then asked me if I had been before the board on another matter the year before. [The board had been trying to classify me as eligible for a student deferment, but I refused the classification.] I answered that I had wanted it to be the same matter.
The chairman then said, “We got your marks from your school anyhow, and you are a very good student. Your marks were very good.”
The chairman then said, “It looks like we can give him his I-0. Are you willing to do alternate service?”
I said yes again, and asked if I would be permitted to choose my alternate service.
The chairman said, “Yes, as long as it’s outside your area; that is, as long as it’s not in White Plains.”
I asked to see a list of available alternate services, and the chairman called a female assistant or secretary who was outside the room. She stated that she had such a list, but that the ruling of the Selective Service only allowed a 1-0 classification on religious grounds.
The chairman then asked to see the new regulations, and the secretary brought them and read the relevant passage (which she pointed out) to the board. The passage concerned the non-eligibility of applicants on political, sociological or personal moral grounds.
The chairman said, “Then the new law only allows Quakers and Seventh Day Adventists?”
The chairman of the board then told me that I would have to be classified 1-A, but that I ought to appeal. I asked him the procedures of appeal. He told me, once again advising me to appeal my case.
I was then dismissed, and one of the board members called after me, “Good luck!”
Throughout the hearing, one member of the board (sitting directly across from me) busied himself with other Selective Service business, conversing with the secretary and reading papers. Other board members were also occasionally inattentive.
On the whole, after the questions about my having been shot at, the board seemed favorably disposed to my case, and I construed their comments at the end of the hearing as support for my appeal.
I affirm that the statements on the preceding page are, to the best of my knowledge and ability of recollection, accurate and true, to which I have signed my name below.