Saturday, 2:15 PM
Appeals court backs conscientious objector
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff
A federal appeals court today ruled in favor of an anesthesiologist who sought a discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector two years ago, after the Army paid $184,000 for her to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.
In a 2-1 vote, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a judge who halted the Army's effort to force Dr. Mary Hanna, 31, of Somerville, to report for active duty in October 2006, ruling that an Army review board's decision to deny her request for conscientious objector status "was without a basis in fact."
The court's majority opinion cited testimony from priests, superior officers and an Army investigator assigned to the case, who each concluded that Hanna, a devout Coptic Orthodox Christian, "sincerely opposed participation in war because of her religious beliefs."
In his dissent, Michael Boudin, chief judge of the First Circuit, said the case presented "a close call," but US District Judge Nancy Gertner should have deferred to the Army review board, which found the timing of Hanna's claim suspicious and concluded her statements "ack passion and sincerity."
Hanna, an Army Reserve captain, had committed to serve four years of active duty and another four in the reserve after becoming a doctor. But, in 2005, as she was nearing the end of her anesthesiology residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Hanna told the Army that a revitalization of her religious beliefs prevented her from fulfilling her commitment to the Army. She offered to repay the money the Army spent on her medical training, plus interest.
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