The Social Security Administration, following complaints by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has halted a mandatory baptismal question previously asked of all applicants seeking benefits.
In 2008, FFRF received a complaint from one of its members who had applied for benefits at his local Social Security Administration office. Despite the fact that he had produced a birth certificate as proof of age, he was next asked the following question: “Was a religious record of your birth made before you were age 5?” When he and his wife objected to answering this invasive question, they were told the application process could not continue until they answered it. Regulation 404.716 of the Social Security Act asks for documents proving a person’s age based on date of birth.
Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert renewed FFRF’s complaint this June. On Sept. 28, 2011, an official with the Social Security Administration responded in writing:
“In light of your concerns, we agree that if an applicant has furnished an acceptable public record of birth, it is not necessary to ask whether he or she also has a religious record of age established before age five. Therefore, we will change our policy instructions so interviewers do not ask for a religious record of age in these situations.”