Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mitt Romney: Draft dodger? Not quite

As the Vietnam War raged in the 1960s, Mitt Romney received a deferment from the draft as a Mormon "minister of religion" for the duration of his missionary work in France, which lasted two and a half years.

Before and after his missionary deferment, Romney also received nearly three years of deferments for his academic studies. When his deferments ended and he became eligible for military service in 1970, he drew a high number in the annual lottery that determined which young men were drafted. His high number ensured he was not drafted into the military.

The deferments for Mormon missionaries became increasingly controversial in the late 1960s, especially in Utah, leading the Mormon Church and the government to limit the number of church missionaries who could put off their military service. That agreement called for each church ward, or church district, to designate one male every six months to be exempted from potential duty for the duration of his missionary work.

Romney's home state was Michigan, making his 4-D exemption as a missionary all but automatic because of the relatively small number of Mormon missionaries from that state.

That is a Web exclusive from part one of the Boston Globe's ambitious seven-part series that began Sunday, "The Making of Mitt Romney." Part two looks at Romney's mission in France. So far, Romney's Mormon faith has caused him a lot of grief as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

1 comment:

manaen said...

The article on Mormon-missionary draft deferments omitted a relevant fact: the 1-each-6-months agreement with the government included the provision that we would receive *no* deferments after returning from our missions.

I had a student's (2-S) deferment before receiving my minister's (4-D) deferment for my mission in Argentina 1971-3 but when I left, I would not have been able to renew my student's deferment afterwards. Back then, we pretty much assumed that a nominal 2-year mission actually would be a 4-year commitment, the last two in military service. I had friends that served these 2+2 missions and some of them continued to teach and baptize informally in the military.

For my part, halfway through my mission in 1972, I received notice that I had been reclassified as 1-H, "not currently classified." I knew several other missionaries who received similar unrequested reclasifications to 1-H that summer. I soon realized that Mr. Nixon was running for re-election that year -- I still wonder whether there was some connection.

I've wondered since whether this was illegal discrimination by the government because I don't believe ministers of other religions lost their ability to claim student deferments when they left their active ministeries. My mission clearly was ecclesiastical and not a draft dodge: I spent about 65 hours per week in active missionary service and I taught more than 20 people who joined the Church.

My main point is that rather than being a way to avoid the draft, an LDS mission increased one's likelihood of being drafted by sacrificing other ways to be draft-deferred.

FYI, I differed from Mr. Romney in *not* longing to be in Viet Nam!