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Newtown Quakers to hear about religious freedom case


Dan Seeger, Quaker activist and writer, will speak on “The U.S. Constitution and the Quaker Quest for a New Jerusalem” at the Newtown Quaker Meetinghouse, 219 Court St., at 9:45 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

Following the presentation, there will be worship in the manner of Friends at 11 a.m., with people speaking out of silence as they are moved to do so. The public is welcome at all events.

Seeger recently found his work installed in the National Constitution Center as part of a new permanent exhibit about the First Amendment. The new exhibit references the Supreme Court Case of the U.S. vs Seeger, which resolved a freedom of religion issue related to conscientious objection to war.

Recalling the early Quaker aspiration for a new, just society, which Quaker founder George Fox often referred to as a “New Jerusalem,” Seeger will compare this Quaker vision with the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, drafted approximately 130 years later.

Seeger’s application in the 1960s for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War was rejected based on his inability to assert belief in a Supreme Being. As the Selective Service System became more aggressive in its determination to induct him into military service, a college friend suggested: “You should look up the Quakers. They may be able to help you.”

Seeger found his way to the New York office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), recipient “on behalf (of) Quakers everywhere of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947,” where he was provided draft counseling.

Out of this developed the Supreme Court case of the United States of America vs. Daniel A. Seeger where, in a unanimous decision in 1965, the Supreme Court sided with Seeger, and the Supreme Being question was removed from the application form for conscientious objectors.

In the course of receiving draft counseling Seeger became interested in Friends, abandoned physics, served on the AFSC staff for 29 years and became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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