Thursday, March 06, 2014

149.7 - Outrage of the Week: Woman Denied Citizenship Due to Atheism

Outrage of the Week: Woman Denied Citizenship Due to Atheism

Now to wrap up the week with our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week. This week, it's an outrage sort of connected to what I was just talking about.

If you apply to be a US citizen, you're asked on the form to declare your willingness to bear arms in military defense of the country. Which is pretty odd since the last time it could be reasonably argued that we were using our military forces in actual defense of the country would be World War II, but never mind; that's not relevant here.

What is relevant is that there is a conscientious objector exception for that declaration. Well, Adriana Ramirez is a California woman who applied for American citizenship and, according to the statement from Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of these matters, she had her application rejected because she identified herself as a “conscientious objector” on secular moral grounds rather than religious ones. Ms. Ramirez, you see, is an atheist. And that got her rejected for citizenship.

Now, this decision is so blatantly illegal, so blatantly unconstitutional, that it very likely will be overturned in short order. What makes this outrageous is that nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court declared that moral and ethical beliefs are the constitutional and legal equivalents of religious beliefs held with equal strength, we still have to keep fighting this battle. That we who are atheists have to keep proving that yes, we have morals and ethics, that yes, we can formulate such beliefs without feeling the need for a god to instruct us in right and wrong, that yes, we are by all rights equal citizens.

I don't claim, I never have claimed and I never will claim, that the discrimination faced by atheists equals that faced by many others of various religions, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual preferences, and so on. I will also say that I have never, at least to my knowledge, personally experienced discrimination due to my atheism - unless you want to count the time I lived in Virginia, where I believed I should (and did) avoid the subject of religion or the lack thereof entirely in order to avoid potential disruptions to my work relationships. The point here is, even though I won't say I personally have experienced discrimination, I do say that discrimination is real.

Or can you name me a single state where it is illegal for someone who professes a belief in a god - any god - where because of that belief it is illegal for them to hold public office?

No, it's not the worst sort of discrimination - but that doesn't mean it's not an outrage.


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