Category Archives: Funding

We widen our mission, focus on the local … and change our name

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OCCPR's Legal Director, James M. Branum, and its Executive Director, Rena Guay, join protest against war with Iran on 2/2/12

The Center for Conscience in Action (CCA), formerly the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, is engaged in the historic and continuing struggle to bring to our nations policy and civil society a better understanding and expression of true justice and real peace. We are a pacifist organization and the state affiliate of the War Resisters League. Our work is funded by individuals, faith communities and foundations who share our dream of a world where human dignity and rights are valued more highly than property, wealth or military power.

We were founded in 2004 as a project to support conscientious objectors, and over the years we built on that foundation to create fuller anti-militarism, pro-peace set of objectives, including a legal support program for resisters that worked closely with the GI Rights movement across the country.

Most of those goals and projects remain a part of our mission, though they continue to evolve in reaction to changes in US military activities and policy. So, in 2013 we decided to take another step towards a more comprehensive philosophy and program that could better respond to the realities of the culture we are part of – where the impact of violence comes not just from the machine of war, but the other machines that are endemic to our lives – the ones shooting carbon into our atmosphere, pumping tar sands through our neighborhoods, gunning down our children at school, or stealing our self-respect with unfairly compensated work in unhealthy conditions.

What is our response to this constant violence in our lives? How do we keep from becoming inured to the constant sense of dread it breeds? How do we overcome the isolation that is part of it, and rebuild community bonds that foster individual growth and civic engagement?

As always, we want to find or build a connection between personal conscience and action for change. In one way we are looking at a larger field for our work, beyond the state of Oklahoma, although we remain rooted in our connections here. We want to grow a regional network of activists and action organizations, so we can share resources and support in an ever more challenging world.

But we also are zooming in on the small scale work that makes big changes possible by planting seeds and building confidence and skills. It is on the local level – in a neighborhood, a school or organization – where concrete and dynamic action, if given encouragement and minimal resources, can immediately and directly impacts participants, the community and the planet.

Grant Program Development

To begin one new branch of our work, we are developing a small grant fund that will launch in 2014.  Our grants will help launch small local projects that spread nonviolence, seek justice or foster sustainability. We have commitments from a diverse group of community leaders and activists to support this program, review applications, provide oversight and assistance in their area of expertise, and otherwise guide the programs grantees to assure that their project can succeed.

Donations for this fund are requested. Even small contributions, pooled together, can quickly create enough for a small grant to be awarded and work to begin. We especially encourage ongoing monthly or quarterly donations to the grant program in order to give it stability over time.

Traditional Peace Activism and Coalition Building Continues

CCA’s executive director, Rena Guay, is a long time organizer who coordinates, or works with others to coordinate, demonstrations, educational forums, and advocacy campaigns in central Oklahoma. She is a founding member of Americans Against the Next War, serves on the steering committee of the Military Law Task Force, and the advisory board of Under the Hood Café and Outreach Center, a GI Rights coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas near Ft. Hood.

Through her work, CCA has been active with the Private Manning Support Network, and in June of 2013, she traveled to Ft. Meade to attend several days of the Manning court-martial. After the sentence was announced, two pro-Manning demonstrations organized by CCA were held in Crescent, OK, Manning’s hometown, and a press release with our position statement was published in the Crescent newspaper and other outlets.

Using the Internet, social media, and our own organizational newsletter, Rena is constantly distributing to CCA friends and supporters current news, resources and action alerts from a diverse assortment of organizations here at home and around the world, including Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, Amnesty International, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee and many others.

Find CCA on Facebook and Twitter

With the critical assistance of CCA steering committee member Fannie Bates, we hosted a concert by internationally known peace and justice troubadour David Rovics in November, which allowed us to make a contribution to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance while sharing David’s inspiring music with the local community.

We have also funded local activists to attend national conferences and workshops where they can develop their knowledge and skills for future work. Of this we are especially proud, since they will be the next generation of peacemakers.

Legal Support for Military Resisters Continues

CCA provides, through the funding of an attorney in military law, low-cost legal representation for members of the US military who are seeking a discharge on the grounds of conscience. Conscientious objection discharges are included in the Uniform Code of Military Justice because the military recognizes that servicemembers, even those who volunteered to join, sometimes discover that they cannot, and will not, kill another human being.

Services are provided on a sliding scale by CCA legal director James M. Branum, who has represented hundreds of GIs since 2006, including Robin Long (the first US soldier of the current era to be deported from Canada after refusing deployment), and Travis Bishop (one of the first resisters of the war in Afghanistan). James has given legal support to Under the Hood Café and Resource Center, one of three GI Rights Coffeehouses currently operating near US bases.

CCA’s legal support project enables James to accept cases from those who otherwise could not afford legal services, thus giving them an experienced civilian attorney to guide them through the CO application or even represent them in court-martial if necessary.

More information about this project can be found at

And, along with work for resisters, we advocate for veterans, that they can receive the benefits they were promised, and the treatment they need. We have worked to remove the stigma of PTSD, and to support the post-service work of veterans in full physical and psychological healing, through activism or creative endeavors.

Education, Advocacy and Outreach

CCA staff stay busy. There are always more challenges in the world to respond to than time and means to do so, but we make the effort anyway. We read constantly to try to keep up with current events and the work of our many ally groups. We write articles and op-ed pieces for national, state-wide and local publications. We develop training materials, or assist ally groups in composing, editing or publishing educational materials. We draft and distribute petitions. We photograph or audio-video record speeches and forums for online distribution. We speak to church and youth groups about myriad peace and justice concerns. We table at events, attend conferences. We work with local organizations in Oklahoma City like The Peace House to respond to worldwide crises, to build support for peaceful, rather than violent responses to them. In short, we try to speak out in our community, and wherever necessary, on behalf of all victims of war and violence.

Oklahoma Conscience Award

Since 2011, OCC/CCA has honored an Oklahoma individual or group that we determine made a significant contribution to our state by exemplifying and practicing the values of peace and commitment to conscience. In 2013, we so recognized Rev. Lawrence Hart, a Cheyanne Peace Chief and Mennonite pastor, in a moving ceremony that borrowed from Native American traditions. This event is the highlight of our year, and in 2014 will be moved from May to February or early March – stay tuned for updates on this soon.

We don’t have all the answers, so we also have to take time to listen, to others, and to the soft, small voice of our own conscience, to discern wisdom for our work. In all, we are guided by that voice to carry on, day to day, year to year, seeking to bring some light to our own circle of concern, and to the big globe of concern we live on.

We hope that your light leads you to donate to our work, or to join our news list, or to get involved, or to just wish us well. We can’t continue without all of that, and we are grateful that all of us are here together here to make things better.

Moses Mast on the Critical Work of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience

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This is an article written by OCC founding member Moses Mast. In various forms it will appear in the Joy Mennonite Church newsletter and in the Oklahoma Peace House newspaper, Peace Strategy News.

It has a good overview of our Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline project.

Oklahoma Center for Conscience was started with two concerns: First, to assist soldiers who no longer wish to serve in the military, with special attention to those who want out for conscience sake. Second, to counsel youth before they enlist about the realities of war, and options for those who have enlisted but later regretted it. There is great need for this counsel because at their most vulnerable age our youth are enticed with promises that do not have to be kept, and deceived with no sense of accountability to provide them the whole truth. Our country spends millions to snare our youth in this manner, making our military not a true volunteer force.
OCC was formed by groups and individuals from the peace community in Oklahoma City. Joy Mennonite Church serves as the host church, with support from members of Catholic Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace, and Quakers of OKC. Later, Eastern Oklahoma Pax Christi in Tulsa added their endorsement.

These are all small groups, only able to provide very modest monetary support. We raise funds from those in our community who support our mission, and that brings me to the purpose of this message: seeking your help.

What any donor wants to know is: How will the money be used? Let me explain where bulk of our budget goes.

We have lay counselors trained in military law answering calls to our Oklahoma G I Rights Hotline. Someone trained in psychology does evaluations that help in court cases. All these serve as volunteers.

Our greatest expense is providing legal services, and this is our most urgent need for assistance. James M. Branum, our attorney on staff, is helping as many as 40 clients at any one time. His work also requires lots of travel, as court cases are at the client’s home base. James charges a modest fee for those who can pay. Sometimes parents pay for legal counsel. There have also been other organizations that have paid for legal counsel. This still leaves a good number who cannot pay. To cover these cases, OCC pays James $400 a month.

If you observe James at work, besides being skilled in military law James is able to speak about the moral issue of war without imposing his beliefs on another.

Most of those who ask for our assistance have not formed a conscience about violence and war. They are more often troubled people who cannot adjust to military discipline. Our policy is to address the concern they bring to us. Often we can do no more then explain what to expect from certain decisions. We have, however, had some very rewarding experiences that have cheered us on the way.

* Camilo Mejia, after serving a tour of duty in Iraq, was troubled with his experience and took a stand as a conscientious objector. For this he was incarcerated in the military prison in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. After his release we provided lodging for him and his family the first night. Later Camillo returned to Oklahoma to participate in forming an Oklahoma chapter of Catholic Peace Fellowship

* Jake Malloy, a sincere young Christian man, wanting to do the right thing as he was taught and understood, enlisted in the military to defend our freedom and way of life. Jake was sent for training to Ft. Sill, OK. During training Jake realized he was being trained to kill.; as a follower of Jesus he realized he could not do this. When he refused to train he was severely threatened, but Jake remained firm. His application for conscientious objector status was refused. Our attorney helped him with an appeal, and Jake was granted a less than honorable discharge. Later Jake returned to Oklahoma with his wife and child, his parents and grandparents, and at Joy Mennonite we had a service of celebration.

* Daniel Sandate served a tour in Iraq but after a short leave in the states, did not return to duty but fled to Canada to escape the war. Daniel was one of the first ones deported from Canada. Attorney James Branum represented Daniel in his trial. Daniel served his sentence at Ft. Sill. After his release from prison, because he had no family or place to go, we invited him to come to Oklahoma City to have some time to adjust to life again. Daniel has since become active in Joy Mennonite Church and in the community and has been a delight to be with.

In addition to these examples, James, as our attorney, has represented others who took the stand as conscientious objectors. He reports an increase of those who oppose war as conscientious objectors.

We have spoken to university and high school classes. We have literature tables at peace events and at places where youth gather. We have spent hundreds of dollars for literature and anticipate our expense for literature will increase.

If you would like to participate with us in this work you can contact us via email: Or you can mail us: Moses Mast, 4708 Outpost Dr., Spencer, OK 73084. If you wish to write a check, make it out to “Joy Mennonite Church“ and earmark is for “OCC.”
Thank you for your prayers and support. We wish all of you well in your efforts to bring peace to the world.

Support COs by helping to cover their legal costs

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Thumbnail of CO flierThe Oklahoma Center for Conscience has helped a number of active duty service members who are seeking status as conscientious objectors. Such status is allowed within the Military Code of Justice, but is difficult to prove to their satisfaction.

We are fortunate that OCC’s co-founder, James M. Branum, right here in Oklahoma is one of the few attorneys concentrating in this work. He has traveled all over the country defending GIs, and is also becoming a highly sought after GI Rights trainer.

Costs for providing legal services include travel and accommodations for James, as well as his legal research and documentation, phone calls, etc.

We have now added the ability to donate to our work online here on this site. There are several options for donations, and we hope you can find one that works for you.

Another way to help is to use the flier here and reproduce and distribute it through your own publications and networks. We are working on producing a variety of media that can be used to promote our work. Please give us your feedback and ideas.

2008 CO flier (pdf)

Benefit Concert for OCC at OKC Infoshop

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Operator Dead: Post Abandoned
I Resign
Ali Bro and the Hippo
Unidentified Meat

James M. Branum of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience will talk about their work. Donations of any amount accepted.

Start Time: Friday, December 12, 2008 at 7:00pm – Midnight
Location:OKC Infoshop, 29 NE 27th St, Oklahoma City, OK [Map]

The Oklahoma City Infoshop is a collective actively striving to create a safe space advocating the ideas of autonomy, mutual aid, co-operation, and egalitarianism.

Fundraising Drive for Legal Support for CO cases Key and Sandate

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The following message comes from the attorney that works with Oklahoma Center for Conscience. He provides low-cost, and when possible through our support, no-cost legal services to active duty military seeking conscientious objector status and discharge.

We will shortly have a Paypal button on this site for easy donations using a credit/debit card. In the meantime, you can send a donation via Paypall using the address info – at – centerforconscience -dot- com. Note in the remarks field that your donation should be used for legal support.

For Joshua Key & Daniel Sandate

My name is James M. Branum. I am a solo-practice attorney working in the area of GI Rights law, meaning that I assist members of the U.S. military who want to be discharged early and/or who are facing a court-martial because of their acts of conscience while in the military.

I am working with the Oklahoma Center for Conscience ( to raise funds for two of my clients who are in serious situations and who are unable to pay for my expenses at time.

Donations can be made today at the OCC table of the OKC Peace Festival (just put your donations into the “Legal Support” bucket).

You can also donate later by sending a check or money order to: Oklahoma Center for Conscience, 504 NE 16th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73104.

The Case of Joshua Key – an Oklahoma Soldier who is seeking asylum status in Canada because of his refusal to return to Iraq

Joshua Key, was a poor kid from Guthrie, Oklahoma, who saw the U.S. army and its promised benefits — from free health care to career training — as the ticket to a better life. In 2002, not yet 24 but already married and the father of two, Key enlisted. He says his recruiting officer promised he’d never be deployed abroad, but a year later he was in Iraq.

Iraq was horrific experience which left him with a terrible case of PTSD (which he recounts in his book, The Deserter’s Tale: The account of an ordinary soldier who walked away from the war in Iraq), so when he came back home on leave, he knew he couldn’t go back. He and his family left Ft. Carson, Colorado and ended up living in their car in Philadelphia for about a year before they made their way to Canada. Since then, Joshua has been fighting in the Canadian Immigration system for the right to remain in Canada as an asylum seeker.

I have been asked to come to Canada to testify on Joshua’s behalf in January before the Canadian immigration courts as an expert witness on the subject of U.S. military law (I previously represented Robin Long, the first US soldier deported from Canada), but Joshua does not have the funds to pay my way up there.

I am asking Oklahomans to support one of our own by contributing to my travel expenses and time.

The Case of Daniel Sandate – a mentally ill US soldier facing a court-martial at Ft. Carson
I wanted to let everyone know about a case I am working on. The client will be pleading guilty to the charge of Desertion on Monday, November 17th at 1 p.m. at Ft. Carson, Colorado. I (along with an excellent attorney with the JAG’s trial defense services and local Colorado attorney Bill Durland) will be arguing to the court that Daniel Sandate should receive a lesser sentence due to his extreme mental health issues.

Daniel has asked me to share his story with the public. A longer version of this will be published at a later point, but this limited account is what Daniel has asked me to share at this time.

Daniel grew up with a horrific home life that is indescribable in nature, so understandably he grew up experiencing severe trauma and mental health issues. His adolescence and young adulthood were brutal but he hoped that joining the Army would give him a sense of purpose and a reason to live.

Sandate was a good soldier. He performed reasonably well in training and did ok in the Army until he deployed in Iraq. Like many soldiers, he was forced to see and participate in things that no human should ever have to go through. He came home from Iraq shook to the core and with a strong case of PTSD.

Daniel tried to get help from the Army but he was blown off, time and time again. His situation was quickly spiraling in a negative direction (he was very suicidal at this point, which was scary because he had tried to kill himself before even joining the Army), so when he met new friend online who lived in Canada, he thought it would be nice to take a break from the Army and hang out up there for awhile. He always wanted to come back at some point, but just needed a break and some time to recover his sanity.

However, while in Canada, Daniel was threatened severely by his old unit (he was even told by an NCO that he could be executed for going AWOL) so he ended up staying in Canada for several years.

While in Canada, he became very isolated and saw few people other than his girlfriend. When they broke up, things got really bad and he tried to kill himself. He was stopped (the police came after his downstairs neighbors reported blood dripping from their ceiling) and at first hospitalized and then later incarcerated. He was later released from jail but due to his suicidality he reported back to the police and told them he wanted to be deported to the US.

The Canadian authorities did take Daniel back into custody but wouldn’t release him due to their concerns over his safety, so Daniel called the US embassy and asked for their assistance. Daniel was then deported to the US, where he was immediately taken into custody and transported to Colorado. He has been sitting in the county jail in Colorado Springs ever since, and has been on suicide watch pretty much the whole time. Daniel is an intelligent, articulate man, but he is deeply troubled. Unfortunately the Army and the CJC (the county jail) have refused to give him the mental health care that he needs, so his mental health situation has declined.

For Daniel’s defense, I am raising funds to cover my expenses and those of Bill Durland’s (who has been invaluable to me as local counsel). At this point, we are short about $1000 of what is needed.