Advice to Youth facing Draft Registration
Before you Register:
=> Read the information below
=> See the Snafu list of things to consider
=>Seek out a qualified draft counselor, attorney or draft counseling agency
=>Consider ALL of your options
All men 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. (Non-citizens, even those in the U.S. illegally, are also required to register with very few exceptions). Once registered, they are required to keep Selective Service informed of their address within 10 days after they move until they turn 26. They can register at a U.S. Post Office, over the Internet, by phone, through the mail, or other ways authorized by Selective Service.
The penalty for failing to register, or any other violation of the draft law, can be up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Millions of men have violated law, and since 1980 only 20 of them have been prosecuted. In fact, there have been no prosecutions since 1985. Many churches have supported non-registration as a valid conscientious response to the registration requirement.
Even without prosecutions, there are real penalties for those who refuse to register. The government denies certain benefits to non-registrants, such as financial aid for college, federal jobs and job training, and even citizenship for those who are not citizens. In addition, many states and local governments also penalize non-registrants, most commonly through denial of state financial aid. Some states also deny admission to state supported colleges and universities, state employment, and an increasing number of states have linked draft registration to obtaining a driver's license.
According to current law, no one can be drafted until Congress restores the president's induction authority, and the president orders inductions. Classifications such as hardship and conscientious objection will not be considered until the government begins drafting people. According to current plans, the first draftees could find themselves in boot camp less than two weeks after Congress gives that authorization. Selective Service has two different plans for how the draft would work, and the other scenario provides Selective Service with six months for drafting the first people.
Which ever plan is used, you would have a very small window of opportunity for filing a claim, probably seven to 10 days. You would be given an additional 10 days to document your claim. So it's important to prepare now.
If you are a conscientious objector when you register, you should go to the post office and fill out the registration card. You should 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.)
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, SSS 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. As a conscientious objector, you are advised to write on Form 3 B something like "I registered as a conscientious objector. You apparently made a mistake by not including this in your records about me. Please correct your records." Selective Service will not change its data in the computer to acknowledge registration as a CO. But 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. The initial claim is made on Form 8 or 9 during the narrow window of time that Selective Service provides when your number comes up for draft processing. The actual claim is documented using, Selective Service Form 22. These notations and letters merely document that you tried to get on record early in the registration process, so you can prove a 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. Compiling this file should be done with the assistance of a qualified draft counselor or agency such as the Center on Conscience & War.
If you decide to register:
==> Find a post office for your registration that has an accessible photocopier.
==> Print in legible black ink on the face of the registration card in the center (not on the edges) :
I am a conscientious objector.
==> Make a photocopy of your registration form for your own records before you submit it to the postal clerk for date stamp and initials.
==> Prepare a statement of your beliefs. Get it on file with your church or other religious body, CCW or the other counseling agency. Such a statement could be helpful in getting the government to recognize your CO beliefs.
If you want to apply for any other deferment or exemption, preparing as much documentation as possible in advance would be helpful.
Center on Conscience & War (NISBCO)
1830 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
The above table appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which would like to hear from soldiers and their families on the home front or war front. Call 206-448-8344 or email WarComesHome@seattlepi.com