By Associated Press, November 24, 2006

PHILADELPHIA – A Marine was deployed to Iraq this month after a military board rejected a recommendation that he receive conscientious objector status and a discharge. The C.O. Status Screening Board noted that Marine Lance Cpl. John Rogowskyj Jr. requested the status after he learned that his Reserve unit was being sent to Iraq and suggested that the request “was simply a means to avoid a combat deployment.” Rogowskyj, 22, was deployed Nov. 2. “He’s not supposed to be there,” Eugene R. Fidell, the lawyer representing him in federal court in Washington, told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday’s newspapers.

Rogowskyj describes himself as a religious humanist who does not belong to any organized religion. “I believe that God has given man free will,” he said in legal documents. “By surrendering my will to the military, I realize that I have willfully propagated violence.” Rogowskyj, one of a handful of conscientious objectors seeking to leave the military, joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 2002. He was ordered to active duty the next year and requested the conscientious objector discharge this year. In April, a Marine captain who served as the hearing officer recommended the discharge. But in August, Maj. Gen. D.V. Odell Jr., commander of the Fourth Marine Division, said Rogowskyj’s reasoning was “theologically confused and does not reflect any officially recognized faith group.”  In September, the screening board agreed with Odell. The military says the number of conscientious objectors in the military is minute – about 0.01 percent. J.E. McNeil, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Conscience and War in Washington, said Rogowskyj’s request is not as unusual as the military would make it seem because such requests are not tallied until completion.