How To Stay Out of the Military (Primer on Draft Resistance)

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The legal requirement
to register for the draft demands a decision: give up your freedom
and your conscience, or conscientiously resist. All the good reasons
that would prevent a free man from volunteering for military service,
also apply to resisting the draft. How in a "free country"
can the first requirement of a young man, when he comes of age,
be to sign up to accept orders to kill for the state in an organized
way? There is never a need to compel a free man to take up a cause
that is both necessary and just; but a man who is drafted is never
free, and thus his cause can never be assumed to be either necessary
or just.

The draft is
not simply an academic interest. There is not enough military manpower
to sustain the commitments the President has already undertaken.
We constantly hear that our troops are "stretched too thin."
To assist the United States, both the President and Secretary of
State have made serious requests for significant military manpower
contributions from other nations. These requests have largely fallen
on deaf ears. The President has repeatedly stated he will not "back
down" meaning, we must assume, that the military forces will
continue to be "thinly stretched." Where will they find
relief? It appears they are looking at young Americans who are free
to volunteer for military duty, but in good conscience, choose not
to do so.

With certain
exceptions, all men residing in the United States are required to
register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The
obligation of a man to register is imposed by the Military
Selective Service Act
, which establishes and governs the operations
of the Selective Service System.

In addition
to the Military Selective Service Act, the “Health
Care Personnel Delivery System
” was authorized by Congress in
1987 to deal with large-scale casualties that outstripped the active-duty
military’s ability to handle them. If implemented, the bill would
require a mass registration of male and female health care workers
between the ages of 20 and 45. At this time; however, the Selective
Service has no statutory authority to draft medical personnel. That
authorization would be provided by legislation to be introduced
and passed in Congress at the time of a national defense mobilization.
That “M-Day” legislative package has not been made available for
public comment or congressional debate. See the Center on Conscience
and War's "Health
Care Professionals and the Draft
for details regarding the Health Care Personnel Delivery System.

The Pentagon
is considering other
“special skills” drafts
, to include military linguists, computer
experts, or engineers, which could arise from other immediate needs.
"We’re going to elevate that kind of draft to be a priority,"
said Lewis Brodsky, acting director of the Selective
Service System

A bill before
the House Armed Services Committee would require the induction of
young men into the military “to receive basic military training
and education for a period of up to one year.” Representatives Nick
Smith and Curt Weldon sponsored the bill, called the "Universal
Military Training and Service Act," introduced last fall. The
measure is currently before the Armed Services Committee. Youth
& Militarism Magazine, published by the American Friends Service
Committee, contains an excellent article, "It's
Not Your Father's Draft
," describing this proposed draft.

What To Do

Deciding what
to do when faced with Registration or the Draft can be a difficult
and life-altering decision. If you choose to resist, it is helpful
to keep two things in mind:

First, if you
stand by your convictions, you cannot lose, and the government cannot
win. The government may handcuff you or lock you up, but they cannot
make you fight. If you give up any freedom, it is completely on
your terms. In contrast, if you allow yourself to be coerced into
military duties you risk death, disease, and disability, all for
a cause you do not believe in.

Second, if
you choose to resist, you will be treated as an adversary by the
government. The government is no longer your friend – if it
ever was. You can expect the Selective Service to use every legal
method and argument at their disposal to get you to abandon your
convictions and to follow orders.

Keep records
carefully, and make your own file of every transaction with the
Selective Service, including phone calls. Do not rely on oral promises
from Selective Service officials. Put things in writing, and attach
receipts and even envelopes to the correspondence in your file.
A second set of those records should be in the custody of someone
you can rely on to forward copies as needed. When you make a record
of a transaction with Selective Service, you should send a copy
to Selective Service for inclusion in your file with the Area Office.
When local boards become operational, you can see and copy information
in your file. You can authorize others to do so on your behalf.
Send your letters and claims to Selective Service by Certified Mail,
Return Receipt Requested. Observe all deadlines scrupulously. Be
sure to include your Selective Service number. Sign and date all
papers submitted.

Get help. Check
out how the counselor you are consulting was trained. Most attorneys
know nothing about Selective Service law; ask their qualifications.
Draft counselors will tend to know about qualified attorneys. There
are two qualified national counseling organizations: The
Center on Conscience & War
(CCW), and the Central
Committee for Conscientious Objectors

To Not Register

On a percentage
basis, not registering is the most likely way to prevent you from
being drafted. The book Chance
and Circumstance
states that between 250,000 and 2 million
males did not register for the draft during the Vietnam War. According
to reports from the Selective Service System, forty percent of the
men who are required to register for the draft don’t register in
the sixty-day time period required by law. At least one or two percent
still haven’t registered by the time they are twenty. At age 26
they are no longer allowed to register. Thus, the number of permanent
non-registrants increases daily. There is a known minimum of at
least 300,000 people, perhaps a million, who are becoming permanent

If you refuse
to register with Selective Service, you’ll receive threatening letters,
at first politely reminding you to register, then threatening prosecution,
finally informing you that your name has been turned over to the
Department of Justice for possible prosecution. These sound scary,
but they’re mostly bluff. No one has been formally charged since

In the early
1980s, 21 men were indicted for refusal to register: 19 of those
21 were public resisters. Wherever there were trials, the rates
of registration actually went down. This resistance halted prosecutions

for Failure to Register

The penalty
for failing to register can be up to five years in jail and/or a
fine of up to $250,000. In peacetime, with registration only, the
regular maximum penalties are four months and/or $2500. If you don’t
register, you become ineligible for federal student aid, federal
job training or civil service employment. Below, is a summary of
the penalties you will face:

Men, born after December 31, 1959, who aren’t registered with
Selective Service won’t qualify for Federal student loans or grant
programs. This includes Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed
Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans.


The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) makes
registration with Selective Service a condition for U.S. citizenship
if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday.

The Workforce Investment Act (formerly called the Job Training
Partnership Act – JTPA) offers programs that can train young
men for jobs in auto mechanics and other skills. This program is
only open to those men who register with Selective Service. This
applies only to men born after December 31, 1959.

A man must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive
Branch of the Federal government and the U.S. Postal Service. This
applies only to men born after December 31, 1959.

Some states
have added additional penalties for those who fail to register.
See State Legislation.

A tactic used
by many states is to require driver license applicant's to register.
These states require a consent statement on all applications or
renewals for driver's permits, licenses, and identification cards.
The statement tells the applicant that by submitting the application
he is consenting to his registration with the Selective Service
if so required by Federal law. Transmission of applicant data to
the Selective Service is accomplished electronically through an
existing arrangement each state has with the data sharing system
of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

As of August
28, 2003, 32 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia
have enacted driver’s license laws supporting SSS registration.
They are: (1) Enacted and Implemented – Alabama,
Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois,
Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New
Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, the Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia;
(2) Enacted But Not Yet Implemented – Arizona,
Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin

Aid for
Those Who Do Not Register

The good news
is that there are alternative funds for financial aid for those
who cannot register for war because they believe registration is
wrong. A few colleges will provide scholarships to make up for the
government money denied. Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren,
Quakers, Presbyterians and Lutherans have such limited assistance
funds to support non-registrants in their own groups. There is a
general fund, the Fund
for Education and Training (FEAT)
, which supports those who
do not qualify for the other programs. FEAT also would aid those
who are denied job-training programs for refusing to register for
the draft.

the Penalties for Failure to Register

A non-registrant
may not be denied any benefit if he can “show by a preponderance
of evidence” that his failure to register was not knowing and willful.
You will have to describe, in detail, the circumstances
you believe prevented you from registering and provide copies of
documents showing any periods when you were hospitalized, institutionalized,
or incarcerated occurring between your 18th and 26th birthdays.
If you are a non-citizen, you may be required to provide documents
that show when you entered the United States

The benefit
agency official handling your case, not the Selective Service, will
determine whether you have shown that your failure to register was
not a knowing and willful failure to register. The final decision
regarding your eligibility for the benefit that you seek will be
made by that same agency, (for example, for student financial aid,
this would be the Department of Education.) With some agencies,
an appeals process is available.

Late, Change of Address

Legally, at
any moment until your twenty-sixth birthday, Selective Service must
accept your draft registration card. Some young men delay registration
until the year in which they turn 21, or even until just before
turning 26. This method takes advantage of the way the draft lottery

A lottery based
on birthdays determines the order in which registered men are called
up by Selective Service. The first to be called, in a sequence determined
by the lottery, will be men whose 20th birthday falls during that
year, followed, if needed, by those aged 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25.
In other words, under present law, which might change with a new
draft, Selective Service would first select randomly among those
who turned 20 in the calendar year of the call-up. In practice,
while it’s possible that a draft could move beyond the age-20 selection
group, the odds are against it.

It is important
to remember that, once registered, even if it is the day before
your 26th birthday, you are once again eligible for federal
and state assistance.

of Address

are required to notify Selective Service within ten days of any
changes to any of the information provided on the registration card,
such as a change of address. According to the Center on Conscience
and War, very few registrants are doing so. A registrant must report
changes until January 1 of the year he turns 26. To notify Selective
Service, mark your change(s) on the Change Information Form attached
to the Registration acknowledgment Card and mail it to Selective
Service, or complete a Change of Information Form, SSS Form 2, which
you can obtain at any U.S. Post Office or U.S. Embassy or Consulate
office. You may also notify Selective Service of any change by letter,
but be sure to include your full name, Social Security Account Number,
Selective Service Number, and date of birth, as well as your new
mailing address

If the registrant
forgets to notify the Selective Service of any address changes,
or if the Selective Service loses that notification, the Selective
Service may have difficulty finding and notifying the registrant
of induction in case of a draft.

If you don’t
register before you turn 26, you will not be allowed to register,
even if you change your mind. You’d then be permanently barred from
such benefits, unless Congress or the courts act to change the law.
A person who fails to register by age 26 may use the same appeals
process as described above, under the section "Choosing To
Not Register."

But Resisting Induction

you decide to register:

  • Find a
    post office for your registration that has an accessible photocopier.
  • Print in
    legible black ink across the middle of the registration form:
    a classification, but it may help you later to document your position
    as a CO. Selective Service makes no record of this declaration
    in its computer files, but they do make a microfilm record of
    the registration card. You should make a copy of your card for
    your file.
  • Make a
    photocopy of your registration form for your own records. Date
    it, fold and seal it, and mail it to yourself. The postmark confirms
    the date.
  • Put a complete
    statement of your conscientious objector beliefs on file with
    your religious body, the CCW, the CCCO, or any other counseling

After registration,
Selective Service will send a “registration acknowledgement” letter,
which repeats the information the registrant gave on the form and
supplies a Selective Service Number. If any of the information is
incorrect, the registrant may return the accompanying Form 3B to
correct any mistakes. The registrant can retain this letter, Form
3A, as proof of his registration.

Before anyone
can be drafted, Congress and the President would have to enact legislation
authorizing new draft calls. If this happens, one can apply for
various postponements and reclassifications to delay induction,
or to avoid it entirely.

for postponement or reclassification

Selective Service
regulations are filled with loopholes, postponements, and reclassifications
for those who will not or cannot be drafted. A registrant can file
a claim only after receipt of an order to report for induction and
before the day he is scheduled to report (this means within 10 days).
If you were called up, you would receive an induction notice requiring
you to report on a certain date not less than 10 days from the date
of the notice, to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)
unless you filed a claim for exemption or deferment. Filing a claim
involves no more than checking a box on a form, and submitting it
to the Selective Service.

After the Selective
Service receives the claim, they will send you more forms to complete.
You must apply for any and all exemptions for which you think you
may qualify, and/or for classification as a conscientious objector.
A registrant automatically gets his induction delayed if he files
a claim for reclassification.
He is also entitled to file for
a postponement if he is a student or if he has an emergency beyond
his control, such as a serious illness or death in his immediate
family. The induction date will be postponed until the draft board
evaluates the validity of the claim. The Selective Service publishes
a booklet titled "Information
for Registrants
" which lists each category of claim for
postponement of induction into the armed forces and each type of
reclassification to become exempt from the draft. Under each heading
(accessible by the
) is a detailed description of the qualifications and requirements
for each category. The major headings are listed below.


  1. Student
  2. Emergency
  3. Religious
    Holiday Postponements
  4. Other

    or National Examination Scheduled

    Academy Acceptance

    Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Applicant

    for Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Program


  1. Members
    of the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Oceanic
    and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service (Class
  2. Deferment
    of Certain Members of a Reserve Component or Students Taking Military
    Training (Class 1-D-D)
  3. Exemption
    of Certain Members of a Reserve Component or Student Taking Military
    Training (Class 1-D-E)
  4. Conscientious
    Objectors Available for Noncombatant Military Service Only (Class

  5. Conscientious Objectors to All Military Service (Class 1-O)
  6. Conscientious
    Objectors to All Military Service (Separated from Military Service)
    (Class 1-O-S)
  7. Registrant
    Deferred Because of Study Preparing for the Ministry (Class 2-D)
  8. Registrant
    Deferred Because of Hardship to Dependents (Class 3-A)
  9. Registrant
    Deferred Because of Hardship to Dependents (Separated from Military
    Service) (Class 3-A-S)
  10. Registrant
    Who Has Completed Military Service (Class 4-A)
  11. Registrant
    Who Has Performed Military Service for a Foreign Nation (Class
  12. Official
    Deferred by Law (Class 4-B)
  13. Alien
    or Dual National (Class 4-C)
  14. Treaty
    Alien (Class 4-T)

  15. Minister of Religion (Class 4-D)
  16. Registrant
    Exempted from Service Because of the Death of His Parent or Sibling
    While Serving in the Armed Forces or Whose Parent or Sibling is
    in a Captured or Missing in Action Status (Class 4-G)
  17. Registrant
    Not Acceptable for Military Service (Class 4-F)

For a hard
copy of the above information, write to Consumer Information Center,
Pueblo, CO 81009, and ask for “Information for Registrants.” Enclose
$1 for processing, payable to Superintendent of Documents. The CCCO,
CCW and other counseling agencies will probably also have copies
of this document available.


Objection is the category of reclassification of most interest to
the majority of draft resisters. In fact, every draft resister is
a conscientious objector in his own way. According to the Selective
Service, a conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving
in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral
or religious principles. Beliefs which qualify a registrant for
CO status may be religious in nature, but don’t have to be. Beliefs
may be moral or ethical, but according to the Selective Service,
a man’s reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not
be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general,
the man’s lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current

Be aware that,
while similar, regulations regarding Conscientious Objection differ
for members of the military forces. For more information on claiming
Conscientious Objector status while a member of the Armed Forces,
see "Advice
For Conscientious Objectors in the Armed Forces
" by Robert
Seeley on the CCCO website.

objectors should begin to document their claims well in advance
of being drafted since otherwise, their time will be very limited.
COs should have prepared in advance a file which documents their
beliefs. At the minimum, this file should include the photocopy
of the registration card, a comprehensive
statement of beliefs
and letters
of support
for this statement. The CCW
has articles with detailed instructions on how to prepare
your statement of beliefs and letters of support. There, you may
also sign on to the
Conscientious Objector Affirmation
. Such evidence can be presented
to the local board that will hear the claim for a CO classification.
Compiling this file should be done with supervision from a qualified
draft counselor or agency such as CCW or CCCO.

If you have
one, get on record with your religious organization, especially
if there is an official registrar. File a provisional version of
your claim with them and/or with the CCW or CCCO. Request an analysis
of your claim with your counselor. Arrange for letters of support
(signed and dated) and documentation of your belief and a life-style
consistent with your claim. Arrange for witnesses and an advisor
in advance of your hearing.

If you don't
have legal advice, get it. Keep your own file about your beliefs
about war and the draft. Keep records of all transactions with the
Selective Service System. Many local peace centers have information.
The Center on Conscience & Warfare (CCW) provides a counseling
service by mail and phone, and publishes aids for thinking out what
you believe and what to do. So does the CCCO, the Central Committee
for Conscientious Objectors.

Be sure to
learn the procedure
for obtaining conscientious objection status.

In general,
once a man gets a notice that he has been found qualified for military
service (i.e., receives an induction letter), he has the opportunity
to make a claim for classification as a conscientious objector (CO).
If a registrant believes he can qualify for Class 1-O, he should
complete the Claim Documentation Form, Conscientious Objector (SSS
Form 22), provided by his Area Office and return the form to the
Area Office with documents and written statements to support his
claim. Form 22 asks the applicant to answer three questions.

  1. Describe
    your beliefs that are the reasons for your claiming conscientious
    objection to combatant military training and service or to all
    military training and service.
  2. Describe
    how and when you acquired these beliefs
  3. Explain
    what most clearly shows that your beliefs are deeply held. You
    may wish to include a description of how your beliefs affect the
    way you live.

You should
begin preparing answers to these questions as soon as you decide
to claim Conscientious Objector status. The Center on Conscience
and War provides an excellent worksheet
to help you.

registrant making a claim for Conscientious Objection is required
to appear before his local board to explain his beliefs. Claimants
for hardship or ministerial classification may also request a personal
appearance. At a personal appearance you will have at least twenty
minutes, and may present up to three witnesses. You may be accompanied
by an advisor, and may request that the meeting be open. You cannot
use a recorder at the meeting; but you can submit your own summary
within five days after the hearing.

If a claim
of conscientious objector status is granted, Selective Service regulations
state that the registrant must perform alternative service. Of course,
one may also choose to resist or refuse alternative service for
reasons of conscience. Likely Alternative Service jobs are in the
fields of conservation, caring for the very young or very old, education,
or health care. Length of service in the program will equal the
amount of time a man would have been assigned to the military.

a Claim That Is Denied

The local board
will decide whether to grant or deny a CO classification based on
the evidence a registrant has presented. If your claim is rejected,
you will receive a new induction date. The CCCO, CCW, and others
can help you find lawyers and/or counselors to help you through
the lengthy appeals process. The board must give reasons for rejection
of your claim. You may appeal a Local Board’s decision to a Selective
Service District Appeal Board. If the Appeal Board also denies your
claim, but the vote is not unanimous, you may further appeal the
decision to the National Appeal Board


You do, in
good conscience, object to Registration and the Draft. This does
not change simply because the Selective Service denies your claim.
Since there is currently no draft, there are no rules governing
those who refuse induction. Historically, draft resisters have been
prosecuted and penalized in some manner. You can expect the same.
If you choose to refuse induction or were successful using one of
the methods described above, you will join a long line of conscientious
objectors proud to have defended their freedom to make their own
conscientious decisions, and your freedom to do the same. For their
stories, check out one of the many books currently available on
conscientious objectors and conscientious
. If you let your conscience be your guide, not your
fear or doubt or uncertainty, you will always make a good decision,
you will always be free, and you will never regret it.






is a brief overview of what would occur if the United States returned
to a draft:

A crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer
military can supply. Congress passes and the President signs legislation
that starts a draft.


The lottery would establish the priority of call based on the
birth dates of registrants. The first men drafted would be those
turning age 20 during the calendar year of the lottery. For example,
if a draft were held in 1998, those men born in 1978 would be considered
first. If a young man turns 21 in the year of the draft, he would
be in the second priority, in turning 22 he would be in the third
priority, and so forth until the year in which he turns 26 at which
time he is over the age of liability. Younger men would not be called
in that year until men in the 20–25 age group are called

The Agency activates and orders its State Directors and Reserve
Forces Officers to report for duty. See also Agency

Registrants with low lottery numbers are ordered to report for
a physical, mental, and moral evaluation at a Military Entrance
Processing Station to determine whether they are fit for military
service. Once he is notified of the results of the evaluation, a
registrant will be given 10 days to file a claim for exemption,
postponement, or deferment. See also Classifications.

Local and Appeal Boards will process registrant claims. Those
who pass the military evaluation will receive induction orders.
An inductee will have 10 days to report to a local Military Entrance
Processing Station for induction.

The registrant
appeal process begins when a registrant is dissatisfied with his
Local Board's decision about his reclassification request and initiates
an appeal. The first line of appeal is to the District Appeal Board.
In the case of non-unanimous decisions of the District Appeal Board,
the registrant may appeal to the President through the National
Appeal Board.

According to current plans, Selective Service must deliver the
first inductees to the military within 193 days from the onset of
a crisis.

16, 2003

Wiggins [send him mail] is
a West Point (United States Military Academy) distinguished graduate
and an honors graduate of New York Medical College. He left the
Army as a Conscientious Objector, resigning his commission as an
Army Captain on the Iraqi front lines during Operation Desert Storm.
He is currently an Emergency Physician.


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