Atheist Wins Immigration Fight, Aided by AHA


Margaret Doughty, the atheist seeking to become an American citizen who was prevented from doing so because she didn’t have a religious basis for being a conscientious objector, has won her case with help from the American Humanist Association. They said in a press release:

U.S. immigration officials have reversed their demand that an atheist woman applying for U.S. citizenship get a letter from a church to justify her request to opt out of the requirement that she “bear arms” in defense of the United States.

The reversal comes after Margaret Doughty, 64, was assisted by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in her fight to defend her constitutional right to assert a secular moral basis for her conscientious objector status, rather than a religious one. Ms. Doughty has been a legal resident of the U.S. for over 30 years.

“The Constitution requires that secular beliefs and religious beliefs be treated equally under the law, and we’re pleased that officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have reversed course and recognized this,” said Bill Burgess, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We hope Margaret Doughty’s case ensures that non-religious applicants for U.S. citizenship are treated fairly.”

A letter was sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials June 17 outlining the Supreme Court rulings that require the government to treat secular and religious conscientious objectors alike.

In response to the AHA letter and many other letters, the USCIS decided to reverse course and withdraw its request for evidence, stating to Ms. Doughty in an e-mail sent this afternoon: “In light of the full explanation in support for your request for an exemption from bearing arms as it relates to the naturalization oath, this Service hereby withdraws the request for evidence (RFE) issued on June 7, 2013. This Service accepts your detailed statement in satisfaction of the information requested by the RFE. Your application for naturalization has been approved.”

As soon as Margaret received this e-mail, she called AHA’s attorney Monica Miller. “I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful support I have received in this process,” Margaret said to Miller. Margaret added, “I think the AHA letter swayed everything.”

During the steps required to becoming a naturalized citizen, Doughty openly expressed her objection to warfare to immigration officials because part of the process includes an oath of loyalty which, in part, requires a pledge that the new citizen would bear arms in the county’s defense. The law permits those who object to doing so for moral reasons to omit this portion of the oath.

Victory! Great news.

Comments

  1. says

    Internally, of course, INS was counting the letter from AHA as functionally equivalent to a letter from a religious organization.

    When I do trainings for young people putting together their CO support documents (to be used in the even the draft is ever reactivated), I recommend that people get a letter of support from their community of faith. The American Humanist Association has always been good about providing such letters for atheists and humanists when asked.

  2. Michael Heath says

    Victory for Ms. Doughty certainly, and pleasingly fast as well. But did the feds change their policies so they never again discriminate against a person making a secular case for defining themselves as conscientious objectors?

  3. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    I can already hear the intellectually-challenged religious nutbags complaining that somehow this is persecution against them.

  4. jamessweet says

    The original response sounded like a form letter. I suspect that it was just a matter of getting the proper officials to fucking pay attention (which may have been quite difficult without the AHA’s help, of course)

  5. says

    But did the feds change their policies so they never again discriminate against a person making a secular case for defining themselves as conscientious objectors?

    What’s more, did they change their policies so that nobody is asked if they would take up arms in defense of the United States in order to become a citizen in the first place?

    Because a) that’s a fucked up question, and b) it’s one that I, as a natural born citizen, have never been asked.

  6. timberwoof says

    The test of this resolution will appear the next time someone not a member of a church declares pacifism.

    “I’m German: of course I’m a pacifist! I grew up learning the evils of war from my parents, my relatives, and all the Americans around me. What did Americans want after 1945?”

  7. John Hinkle says

    Gretchen: good point. If you can object to “bearing arms”, what’s the point of asking the question at all?

    Immigration Official: Do you promise to bear arms in defense of the United States?

    Pre-citizen: Absolutely! Unless I don’t feel like it.

    Immigration Official: Right! Welcome new citizen!

  8. freemage says

    Modusoperandi:

    Atheist Wins Immigration Fight, Aided by AHA

    Great. Now I’ve got ‘Take on me’ stuck in my head.

    And so you felt the need to share your pain? Dammit!

    OTOH, this is utterly awesome news. I’m overall inclined to say the past week has been a generally good one.

  9. mithrandir says

    The original response sounded like a form letter. I suspect that it was just a matter of getting the proper officials to fucking pay attention (which may have been quite difficult without the AHA’s help, of course)

    If that’s the case, we’re not yet done here, as other people in the thread have noted – the form letters and policies need to be changed to reflect the actual laws. Until that’s done, other people in Ms. Doughty’s position who aren’t as determined to push back will continue to find themselves intimidated.

  10. dustbunny says

    This is great news!

    I will be going through this process in about two years time and I really hope that by then a secular objection is just noted down without the need for supporting evidence. I cannot imagine a situation where I would want to take up arms to defend the nation (unless maybe during the Zombie Apocalypse…).

  11. dingojack says

    timberwoof – What did the Americans want after 1945?
    ♪♫♪ They wanted a war, just like the war that killed dear old dad. ♪♫♪
    ;s Dingo

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