Mitchell A. Tyner  /  Adventist News Network via AP
U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel David Klimkewicz, right, with his wife, Tomomi, are seen in this Dec. 14 photo taken at Camp Lejeune, N. C.
updated 1/5/2005 1:32:23 PM ET 2005-01-05T18:32:23

A soldier who re-enlisted with the Marines after becoming a Seventh-day Adventist has been jailed for refusing to pick up a gun.

Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz, 24, of Birch Run, Mich., was sentenced last month in a court-martial to seven months in Camp Lejeune’s brig. He also received a reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge.

Klimkewicz was charged with refusing to obey an order in April 2003 to draw a weapon from his unit’s armory for a training exercise in preparation for an Iraq deployment.

In refusing the order, Klimkewicz told his superiors he was a conscientious objector and cited his new status as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The church supports noncombatant status for its members who serve in the military, but leaves such decisions to a member’s individual conscience.

Klimkewicz joined an Adventist church in Jacksonville before he re-enlisted in 2003. He sought conscientious objector status, which was rejected last March.

“Conscientious objector status has to be granted,” said Capt. Jeff Pool, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division at Lejeune. “Since his package was denied, it was just simply disobeying an order. That is what he was charged with.”

The timing of Klimkewicz’s conversion and re-enlistment were issues in his case, church attorney Mitchell Tyner said Tuesday. The Marine Corps said he should have known better than to re-enlist after joining the church, he said.

“Marines are not big on this kind of thing,” Tyner said in a telephone interview from the church offices in Silver Spring, Md. “The whole thing comes down to the timing.”

Tyner said Klimkewicz was to be one of 10 troops sent to Iraq as replacements for other Marines. He told authorities he would work removing mines in Iraq, but did not want to carry a weapon.

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