The Freedom From Religion Foundation successfully petitioned the United States government to exempt a 64-year-old British atheist immigrant from taking an oath to bear arms.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services tried to force Margaret Doughty to get religious documentation from a church proving her objection to the oath was religiously motivated. FFRF now wants to ensure all immigrants do not need to prove they are religious to receive conscientious objector status.
USCIS District Director Sandra Heathman responded June 19 to a letter FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent June 14. Heathman told Seidel that USCIS had withdrawn its request for religious documentation from Doughty, who was sworn in June 26 as a citizen without taking the oath to bear arms.
Seidel thanked Heathman in a June 24 letter for approving Doughty's naturalization application, but expressed concern that the problem is bigger than one person: “This single incident does not seem to be isolated, but a symptom of a larger problem.”
USCIS needs to create a standard procedure that is religiously neutral for all immigrants requesting conscientious objector status, Seidel wrote. If there already is a policy that does not discriminate against the nonreligious, the USCIS needs to stop itsr Houston office, which originally required the religious proof, from going rogue and instituting its own discriminatory policies.
FFRF looks forward to the day when the rights of all immigrants to the United States, religious and nonreligious, are protected by the First Amendment.