AHA’s Legal Center Demands Clarification on Conscientious Objector Status

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter today to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in response to USCIS’s repeated rejection of naturalization applications by secular conscientious objectors.

The American Humanist Association successfully represented two secular applicants in their quest for U.S. citizenship. In June of 2013, immigration officials reversed their demand that Margaret Doughty, a legal resident for over 30 years, provide 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. And just last Wednesday, California resident Adriana Ramirez’s citizenship application moved forward after declining to “bear arms” due to her nontheist beliefs.

“Secular beliefs and religious beliefs must be treated equally under the law,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Denying one applicant due to her secular beliefs may have been a simple oversight. But this latest rejection by another applicant makes it clear that USCIS is not following the Constitution.”

The letter suggests that USCIS is failing to train its officers on the rights of conscientious objectors and asks to amend a section of the USCIS policy manual to make clear that “secular” moral beliefs are equivalent to “religious” beliefs. In addition, the letter also asks that the requirement to include “an attestation from a religious organization” to justify certain responses in the application process be removed.

The full letter can be viewed here.