The title really lays out the moral of the story on this one, but thankfully it has a happy ending. I got wind of this story first on Reddit, and then from my friend Dan, so I suppose this means I need to start complaining again. About a week ago a story broke that 64-year old Margaret Doughty – who has been living in the United States for 30 years – was denied her citizenship on the grounds that her conscientious objection to taking up arms in defense of the country was not based on on religion because she is an atheist.
That bit at the end is what caught the eye of someone at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They told her that if she had a “conscientious objection,” it had to be on religious grounds, not moral ones.
Her atheism wasn’t good enough.
Her only option, it seemed, was to get a letter from the elders of her church by June 21st to show that her religious justifications against going to war are sound.
Apparently the USCIS feels that morality doesn’t count if its origins can’t be traced back to religion. Because nothing quite shows opposition to war like invoking a supreme being responsible for wiping out about 25 million people – either directly by a worldwide flood or through genocidal surrogates like Joshua and Samuel. Seriously, if your god would be arrested for war crimes under the Geneva Convention, it’s time to stop saying that the Bible is the basis for any practical moral code. It’s embarrassing.
Well, apparently her stepson contacted a friend of his (Hemant Mehta, whose blog I linked to above), who went straight to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their lawyer drafted a strongly worded letter explaining that such discrimination is in violation of the First Amendment, and that a strongly held moral conviction should stand on its own merit, and not be subject to the requirement that it has to be traced back to religious origins.
As I said, though … after about a week, we find out there’s a happy ending:
There’s finally good news to report:
Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) took action on this and his office sent Doughty a wonderful response earlier today:
“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.”
I damn near fell over when I saw that “R” by his name. It’s not too often I see Republicans run to the aid of non-believers, I happily welcome the change of pace. I took a look at his bio, and one of the first things that stands out is that his background is in law, and he’s not a pastor of his local church, as I’ve seen in many other situations before. Hm. I guess that helps explain some of it right there. Good on you, Blake. Thanks.
Now, could you have a talk with some of your co-workers?