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Friday, February 28, 2014

Because God Knows We Don't Want Any New Nonviolent Citizens


A California resident applying for U.S. citizenship has had her application denied because immigration officials did not accept as valid a conscientious objector, declaration to “bear arms” in defense of the U.S. because it is secular in nature. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is representing Adriana Ramirez in her appeal.

In a letter dated Feb. 27, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in San Diego, CA were informed that their decision is not supported by the law and should immediately be reversed. “Given the Supreme Court’s unequivocal instruction that, to be consistent with the Constitution, the government must interpret a statute permitting conscientious objection on the basis of ‘religious’ belief to include comparable secular moral views,” the letter states, “denying Ms. Ramirez’s citizenship on the grounds that her secular moral beliefs are not ‘religious’ is unconstitutional.”

“There is no legal basis to deny a citizenship application because one’s ethical values are secular,” said Appignani Legal Center attorney Monica Miller. “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.”

In June 2013, the American Humanist Association was successful in a nearly identical case. On behalf of Margaret Doughty, a similar letter was sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in Texas outlining the Supreme Court rulings that require the government to treat secular and religious conscientious objectors alike. Shortly after the letter was received, Ms. Doughty’s citizenship application was approved.

During the citizenship process, applicants are allowed to express moral, ethical, or religious objections to warfare, making the promise to “bear arms” an optional part of the oath of loyalty taken by those approved for citizenship.

We want people to become citizens who will contribute to society, and yes, even defend it.  But there are myriad ways to contribute and defend, which includes stuff that is both secular and nonviolent.  One hopes AHA will be successful again in this pursuit.

As an aside, Madison's original proposal for what eventually became the Second Amendment included a clause regarding conscientious objection.  Worry not, even though Vermont's constitution (New Hampshire's, too!) still have such a provision, not everybody will turn into Quakers.  

I think we can afford to let a few fellow travellers become an American, if only because they could help us find tools other than violence to make our country and the world a better place.


February 28, 2014 in Conscience, PaxLives | Permalink


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