A California resident applying for citizenship has had her application for citizenship denied because she is an atheist, according to the American Humanist Association. Officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Diego rejected her application because they did not accept as valid her reasoning as a conscientious objector to ”take up arms in defense of the United States.”
In answering the question on the application Adriana Ramirez gave a lengthy response that cited the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Einstein and Gandhi. In her answer, she said she is personally and deeply committed to non-violence.
“My commitment to non-combatancy is based on deep moral conviction,” Ramirez wrote. "Accordingly, I respectfully request that the U.S. government honor its statutory exemption and allow me to take an alternate affirmation."
She also objected to the phrase, in the oath she would have to take to become a citizen, “so help me God,” claiming she does not “hold such religious beliefs.”
The USCIS wasn’t interested in that, reports the website Patheos. In the rejection letter Ramirez received, the office wrote, “Applicants for naturalization seeking an exemption from parts of the oath of alliegence [sic] must be based on religious training and belief.”
The recent incident recalls the plight of Margaret Doughty, who, last year, received similar treatment from the USCIS. After a lot of media attention and the help of Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas, as well the American Humanist Association, Doughty received notice that her application for citizenship had been approved.
The Huffington Post reported on that case and legal experts expressed dismay that USCIS officials did not understand that nonreligious beliefs were sufficient in conscientious objector claims.
"It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a nonreligious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption," said Andrew L. Seidel, a staff attorney at Freedom From Religion Foundation, at the time.
Ramirez will also be getting help in her fight to be granted citizenship. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center has sent a letter on her behalf to USCIS requesting that it change its position and approve her application.
“There is no legal basis to deny a citizenship application because one’s ethical values are secular,” said Monica Miller, an attorney at the legal center. “The letter is meant to clarify the mistake being made by officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s San Diego office so that the application process can move forward.”