Margaret Doughty has decided to become a US citizen – and has hit an obstacle.
…an USCIS official asked Doughty to confirm that, when asked, she would take up arms in defense of the United States. Doughty, who had just been made to swear an oath to tell the truth (as is customary with citizenship applications), felt honor-bound to answer the question…truthfully. She responded that she would be unfailingly loyal to the United States, but that her conscience doesn’t allow her to inflict violence on another person.
The immigration agent explained that the question, in Doughty’s case, was pretty much academic. The United States does not put sexagenarians on the front lines. Doughty, however, felt helpless to change her answer, and the agent told her that was going to be a problem, claiming that the USCIS recognizes only religiously-motivated objectors (Doughty isn’t religious; she identifies as an agnostic).
This is a long-standing issue with conscientious objection: religious c.o. is accepted while non-religious c.o. is not – as if “conscientious” simply meant “religious,” which it doesn’t.
Doughty is appealing to her Congressman, Blake Farenthold, for help with her case, and has been heartened by a letter written by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel, who let the USCIS know in no uncertain terms that the law is not on the agency’s side. Wrote Seidel:
Either the officers in Houston are inept, or they are deliberately discriminating against nonreligious applicants for naturalization.
Seidel, however, cannot act as Doughty’s attorney, and the applicant has a call in to a local immigration lawyer who might.
Let’s remind each other to keep an eye on this.