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Secular Conscientious Objector’s Citizenship to Move Forward

U.S. Citizenship reverses decision to deny nontheist’s citizenship application

For Immediate Release

Contact: Maggie Ardiente, mardiente@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 ext. 116
Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 ext. 120

(San Diego, CA, March 19, 2014) —U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials reversed their decision to deny a California resident citizenship status due to her secular beliefs.

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center represented Adriana Ramirez in her appeal after her application was denied because she, as a nontheistic conscientious objector, refused to “bear arms” in defense of the United States. Ramirez received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials stating that her application has been accepted and providing information on attending a naturalization ceremony.

“We’re pleased that officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services corrected this mistake, but we hope this won’t happen again in the future,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “People cannot be denied citizenship simply because their moral values are secular.”

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in San Diego, CA on behalf of Ramirez on February 27, 2014, which stated, “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, denying Ms. Ramirez’s citizenship on the grounds that her secular moral beliefs are not ‘religious’ is unconstitutional.”

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.


The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington D.C., its work is extended through more than 170 local chapters and affiliates across the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.