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.