The Individual and the State

The State, Supportive and Coercive
"The attitude of Friends toward the state is conditioned by the fact that the state has many facets. As a necessary instrument for meeting human needs and for maintaining an orderly society with justice under law for all, the state commands respect and cooperation. But when the state acts as a coercive agency resorting to violence, it acts contrary to Quaker principles.

"Friends are not opposed to all forms of physical constraint. It is sometimes necessary and proper for peace officers to use minimal forms of physical constraints in dealing with persons who do injury to others or who will not cooperate with just law. But Friends must be watchful for the use of either physical or psychological violence in maintaining public order."

Civic Duties
"As a part of their witness to what society may become, Friends are called to participate in public life as voters, public officials, or participants in community groups or professional societies.

"As private citizens in the public arena, Friends bear witness by demonstrating respect for others, flexibility, reconciliation, and forgiveness in difficulties, as well as faithful persistence in pursuit of their leadings.

"In public office, Friends have an opportunity to bear witness to the power which integrity, courage, respect for others, and careful attention to different points of view can exert in creating a just community. Where there is a conflict between loyalty to God and a seeming necessity for action as a public official, a prayerful search for divine guidance may lead to a suitable resolution of the conflict or to a decision to resign."

Civil Disobedience
"From their earliest days Friends have counseled obedience to the state except when the law or ruling involved has appeared to be contrary to divine leading. The state has no claim to moral infallibility. Primary allegiance is to God.

"If the state's commands appear to be contrary to divine leading, Friends take prayerful counsel before responding. This usually involves testing one's proposed action by the judgment of the Meeting. When the decision is to refuse obedience to the law or order of the state, in accordance with the dictates of conscience, it is proper for Friends to act openly and to make clear the grounds of their action.

"If the decision involves incurring legal penalties, Friends generally have suffered willingly for the sake of their convictions. Friends not personally involved in such actions can strengthen the Meeting community by supporting their fellow members with spiritual encouragement and, when necessary, with material aid."

(Source: PYM's Faith and Practice)


The Friends Committee on National Legislation is the largest peace lobby in Washington, DC.  FCNL staff and volunteers work with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate social and economic justice, peace, and good government. FCNL is nonpartisan, and is also the oldest registered ecumenical lobby in Washington, DC.

Conscientious Objection: Quakers and the Draft (booklist)

Visalia Friends Meeting's Conscientious Objector Counseling Project

Historic Quaker John Woolman set a high standard for ethical behavior in an unethical environment. His complete journal is available online here.

The War Resisters League, "United States' oldest secular pacifist organization" offers information about war tax resistance and other resources for resisting war. (Not specifically Quaker)

Current Google News about Friends