After dealing with two separate cases of non-religious people having their U.S. citizenship denied because of their secular ethics, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is asking the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for clarification on the issue:
In the past year, our legal office received several complaints by naturalization applicants who had been denied citizenship simply because their objection to bearing arms was based on secular moral beliefs rather than theistic moral beliefs. We successfully interceded in two of these instances after informing local USCIS branches (one in Texas, the other in California) that their actions were unconstitutional. The Texas USCIS case was particularly troubling because the non-theistic applicant was told that her application would be denied unless she provided documentation from a church justifying her objection. Although local USCIS officials responded appropriately after our intervention, it has become clear that the USCIS is failing to train its officers of the constitutional requirements regarding conscientious objector status. In light of these instances, we feel it is necessary that your policies be revised to clarify the constitutional criteria for conscientious objector status.
At a minimum, the AHLC is asking the government officials to change their manual to make clear that secular objections to “bearing arms” for the country are to be considered equivalent to religious objections.
They are also asking that a line in the manual — “Religious training or belief does not include… a merely personal moral code” — be removed altogether since it suggests that a personal moral code is not enough.
This should be a no-brainer. Right now, the citizenship oath is unnecessarily complicated and it doesn’t have to be. In the process, it may be turning away non-religious immigrants who refuse to “play the game.” There’s no reason to not refine the law.
As attorney Monica Miller put it:
“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.”
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