FFRF assists another nonbeliever toward naturalization (March 20, 2014)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation assisted a non believing applicant to become a U.S. citizen after she encountered a religious test for a citizen oath.

Adriana Ramirez, an applicant for naturalization, was recently denied citizenship because her moral unwillingness to bear arms is not based upon religion. This is a flagrant violation of Supreme Court precedent, however the USCIS is not budging.

All naturalization applicants are required to swear an oath, “to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS), would only exempt a prospective citizen from taking this oath for religious reasons.

Ms. Ramirez, after being persecuted in her native Columbia for her pacifism and nonreligious beliefs, was granted political asylum. As a journalist in Columbia, she covered politics and the courts and even founded a journal dedicated to peace journalism.

Ms. Ramirez had asked for an exemption to the oath because, “The strength of my moral and ethical convictions in this matter is greater than any religious training or indoctrination that I may have had in my upbringing.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote USCIS a strong letter on Feb. 21 noting that US Supreme Court precedent does not require any religious test to receive an exemption to bear arms. “It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a nonreligious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption. This is a longstanding part of our law and every USCIS officer should receive training on this exemption,” Seidel wrote.

On March 20, FFRF was informed that Ramirez received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials stating that her application has been accepted and providing information on attending a naturalization ceremony.

In 2013, FFRF helped Margaret Doughty become a U.S. citizen, surmounting a nearly identical situation at the Houston USCIS office. The office relented and let her take the oath without the bear arms requirement, as required by law. The repeated issues FFRF has had with USCIS led Seidel to write a comprehensive letter to USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas.

Seidel asked Mayorkas to issue a policy memoranda to prevent future nonreligious citizens from going through similar ordeals. Seidel also took issue with prayers at citizenship ceremonies and those ceremonies occurring in Catholic institutions, citing another complaint he addressed on Feb. 21.

“We thought this discriminatory policy was dropped, and here another applicant encounters the same barrier. The U.S. government must resolve this problem permanently,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation