The Center on Conscience & War is a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of conscience, opposes military conscription, and serves all conscientious objectors to war. 

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Advice to Youth Facing Selective Service Registration

Before you Register:
⇒ Carefully read the information below
⇒ Consider all of your options

All males residing in the United States are required to register for the draft during a 60 day period that begins 30 days before their 18th birthday. Some males may feel conscientiously opposed to cooperating with draft registration.

If you are a conscientious objector whose conscience allows you to register you should go to the post office and fill out the registration card. Write somewhere on the face of the card, between the lines or above your signature, "I'm opposed to participation in war in any form because of my ethical, moral, or religious beliefs," or words to that effect. You should make a photocopy of the card before surrendering it to the postal clerk. This cannot be done if you register electronically, so we obviously suggest you register by mail! In the event you are only able to register online or were registered by the Department of Motor Vehicles when you applied for a drivers license you will still have the opportunity to note you are a conscientious objector on Form 3B (read paragraph below).

Selective Service will enter the registration information into its computer, microfilm the registration card, and destroy it. Selective Service will also send a "registration acknowledgment" letter, which repeats the information you gave on the registration form, and assigns you a Selective Service number. This letter, Selective Service Form 3A, should be kept by the registrant as proof of his registration. The instructions say that if any information is incorrect, the registrant should return the accompanying Form 3B to correct any mistakes.

The registration acknowledgment will contain no reference to the fact that you registered as a conscientious objector. Note on Form 3B that you are a conscientious objector and wish this to be noted in Selective Service records. Selective Service will not change its data in the computer to acknowledge that you would like to be registered as a CO. However, if you send this statement to Selective Service by certified mail return receipt requested, and keep a photocopy together with your receipts, you will have documented that you attempted to get your beliefs on record with Selective Service long before they attempted to draft you. (If you registered without mentioning that you are a conscientious objector, you could send a letter stating this to Selective Service at any time.)

Remember that none of these actions take the place of formally filing your claim at the appropriate time in the event of a draft. (That time is about 7-10 days after you are called up for the draft) The initial claim is made on Selective Service Form 8 or 9 during the narrow window of time that Selective Service provides when your number comes up for draft processing. The actual written claim is documented using Selective Service Form 22.

The careful paper trail you have kept when registering with the Selective Service merely documents that you tried to get your conscientious objector convictions on record. In the event you are drafted, this will help you prove the consistency and longevity of your beliefs.

In anticipation of a draft, you should prepare a file of evidence of your beliefs. At minimum, include in this file photocopies of your registration card and other attempts to get on record, a comprehensive statement of your beliefs, documentation of activities in your life that help to support your claim, and letters of support. This evidence can be provided to the local board who will hear your claim for CO classification if you are drafted. A qualified draft counselor or agency such as the Center on Conscience & War can help you compile this file.

In summary, if you decide to register:

⇒ Print in legible black ink on the face of all Forms sent to Selective Service (not on the edges): I am a conscientious objector.

⇒ Make a photocopy all Forms for your own records before you submit it to the postal clerk for date
stamp and initials. Send all mail return-receipt requested.

⇒ Prepare a statement of your beliefs. Get it on file with your church or a reputable peace organization such as CCW. Such a statement could be helpful in getting the government to recognize your CO beliefs.

Download CCW's comprehensive guide on conscientious objection and Selective Service registration.

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Copyright © 2014 Center on Conscience & War | 202-483-2220 | 1830 Connecticut Ave. NW | Washington, DC 20009 | ccw@centeronconscience.org