Today, she received an email from the congressional office with the following message from the USCIS included:
“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.”
Margaret Doughty’s case can be seen as a victory for the non-religious in the U.S.,
Good news and a victory over injustice, intolerance and discrimination!
My question now is, is this type of discrimination against non-believers a common practice (policy) within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?
It seems to me that the USCIS’s guide to naturalization needs to be modified to prevent such cases as this in the future.
Although the oath of naturalization includes the clause “so help me god,” the naturalization guide (http://www.uscis.gov/files/article/M-476.pdf) does say on page 39 that “If you are unable or unwilling to take the oath with the words “on oath” and “so help me God” included, you must notify USCIS that you wish to take a modified Oath of Allegiance. Applicants are not required to provide any evidence or testimony to support a request for this type of modification.”
That being said, the document also states that “If you are unable or unwilling to promise to bear arms or perform noncombatant service because of religious training and belief, you may request to leave out those parts of the oath. USCIS may require you to provide documentation from your religious organization explaining its beliefs and stating that you are a member in good standing.”
This apparently is the conscientious objector clause which led to the discrimination against Margaret Doughty. What I get from this clause is, the only way a person could possibly have moral qualms about taking up arms to kill other human beings is if the religious doctrine he or she subscribes to forbids such an act and to be eligible for an exemption to this part of the oath a person must get acknowledgment from a religious institution that one actually has a conscious.
As a non-believer, I find this degrading and preposterously presumptive.
Although the USCIS caved in this particular case, it was only because it was brought to the public’s attention and national organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association threatened to take legal action since the requirement that a person must show that his or her opposition to armed service is based upon religious training and belief was no longer a criterion after cases broadened it to include non-religious moral belief, United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 and Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333.
My concern is that there are many other cases of this nature that have gone unchallenged and that there may be many more in the future if the language in the naturalization guide is not change.