FFRF renews advocacy for rights of all nonreligious immigrants

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is again demanding that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services strike an unconstitutional requirement for religious belief that could bar an atheist from becoming a citizen.

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.”

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.

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

Ms. Ramirez asked for an exemption to the oath:

“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 Feb. 21 letter on behalf of Ramirez 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.

In 2013, FFRF helped Margaret Doughty out of a nearly identical situation imposed by the Houston USCIS office. The office relented and let her take the oath without the bear arms requirement.

“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. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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