Military Registration and Conscientious Objection

The U.S. government requires almost all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, to register with Selective Service. Details are on the Selective Service System web site at, including the exceptions to registration.

A direct link to register is at

After he registers, a man is required to notify Selective Service within ten days of any changes to any of the information he provided on his registration card, like a change of address. He must report changes until January 1 of the year he turns 26. He may do this by using the on-line "change of address" page on this Web site at, or by completing a change of address form (SSS Form 2) at the post office, or by calling 1-847-688-6888.

Conscientious Objection

A conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or to bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles. Perhaps best known in this category are members of the "historic peace churches": Mennonites and Brethren in Christ, Quakers/Friends, and Church of the Brethren.

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; however, 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 claims.

The standard has been twice determined by the US Supreme Court to include:

A registrant making a claim for Conscientious Objection may provide written documentation or include personal appearances by people he knows who can attest to his claims. His written statement might explain:

If you are a CO, you might want to consider answering the CO questions Selective Service used to ask, and sending those in when you register. Because there is no draft currently, they'll send it back, but it's still a good exercise for thinking through the issues, both for men and women. I filed mine later in life, and my sons have also done theirs as they reached draft registration age. I have urged my daughters to do the same. You might also wish to place a copy of your CO statement on file with your church or other organization.

The questions Selective Service used to ask when there was a draft are:

The third question might well be phrased "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

It has been suggested by some peace organizations that perhaps the burden of proof should be the opposite:

One more aspect to this issue is that a substantial portion of the federal income tax pays for past and present military expenses. Many who are opposed to killing other human beings directly also object to paying others to kill for them. At this point, there is no legal mechanism to recognize the right to "conscientious objection" with regards to the federal income tax, or any provision for "alternative service" for federal income tax funds. The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund ( is working to pass legislation that would provide a way for persons to participate in the tax system without violating their conscientiously held beliefs. Those choosing to direct that their tax payments only be used for non-military purposes would need to meet the same standards for conscientious objection as used by Selective Service. If you have prepared a CO statement and placed it on file with some organization, this could serve as valuable documentation if and when a Peace Tax Fund bill becomes law.