Atheist immigrant told to join church

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Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427
Atheist immigrant told to join church

Atheist seeking US citizenship told to join church or be denied ? RT USA

Story at link. In short, this atheist could not in good conscience pledge to take up arms to defend the US. Religious people can get out of this pledge by saying its against their religion, but as an atheist it isn't against her religion, but still against her morals. She was told to provide documentation on church letterhead that she had joined an anti-violence church or else be denied citizenship for not saying the pledge. Thoughts? Is it fair that a religious person's deeply held beliefs would "count more" than a non-religious person's? Can you make belonging to a religion a requirement of citizenship?

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

This is really quite sad. I wonder if there is a humanist organization who can help out until this can be challenged in court, as it seems blatantly illegal.

But being part of two groups, immigrant and atheist, which don't get very much respect in the US must be very difficult.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

While I completely agree that she should get the same exemption as religious people, I will confess that if I were her I would just lie. She's 65, she's a woman: no one is going to ask her to take up arms.

To the greater issue, it's unfair.

But if she were smart, she'd just agree to it, knowing it is not going to come up.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

Laurie - I would probably just say the darn pledge too, for expediency's sake. However, I do think it speaks well of her (and of the strength of her moral convictions) that she's not willing to lie when the lie would be easier.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

This seems a lot to me like the vaccinations exemptions. In NYState, i could file a religious exemption if i had a religious reasons for not wanting to vaccinate my kids. But you know, when i was there i sent my kids to a Catholic school and participated as a Catholic so had I wanted to there, i was rather out of luck.

Here in Maine there are both religious exemptions for vaccines and philosophical exemptions that you can use.

I see this as the same and i don't really understand why there is a problem because according to the article it sound like the precedent had been set previously to allow objection without being affiliated with a religion.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

I agree with Kim. There should absolutely be an opportunity for people to oppose this on non-religious grounds, and it seems that the courts have already agreed with that.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

She should join the Unitarian Universalists. They welcome all belief systems, including atheists, and one of their principles is "The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all." Her immediate problem is solved in the short term, and I applaud her efforts to resolve the issue on a long-term basis with a court ruling.

And to answer the OP questions: No, one person's religious beliefs should not "count more" than another's non-religious beliefs. And absolutely no, church membership should not be a requirement for citizenship. You can't have freedom of religion without freedom *from* religion.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

I have an honest question (although it may be a stupid one) about this. In the article it says:

“The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms,” the British native explained on her application. “Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up arms.”

In looking up the description of "Religious belief" on Wikipedia (Religious belief - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) I can't really tell if this definition includes those who don't believe in a diety (it seems not to?)

So, can an athiest have "spiritual/religious beliefs" and if so, can someone help me understand this, since I thought they were non-religous? Admittedly, I do not know much about athiesm beyond the obvious, so I'm truly curious about this.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

I'm with you, Carrie. I don't think you can have a religious belief if you're an atheist.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

Couldn't this really apply to anything though? Say for instance Amish kids don't have to go to school past the 8th grade because of their religious beliefs. Couldn't an Atheist say that it is against their morals for some reason for their kids to go to school and make the argument that their belief should hold the same weight as those religious beliefs?

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Couldn't this really apply to anything though? Say for instance Amish kids don't have to go to school past the 8th grade because of their religious beliefs. Couldn't an Atheist say that it is against their morals for some reason for their kids to go to school and make the argument that their belief should hold the same weight as those religious beliefs?

Yes. Why would we give more weight to one set of beliefs than the other?

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

So if I say I am an Atheist and am morally opposed to buying health insurance than I shouldn't get a penalty from the IRS for the Obamacare requirements? Woo Hoo lots of people could take advantage of that!

Or maybe I am morally opposed to providing contraception for my employees?

Hey I have no objection to people getting out of government mandates. Just wanted to point out that it might be opening up a can of worms.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I think the government already picks and chooses which mandates they will let people out of for religious/philosophical reasons. I think that's okay. But I think that in order to be fair, if they have already said that they will let people out of a given mandate for religious reasons, they can't really refuse to let atheists out of that same mandate for philosophical reasons. Like, religious people can't claim it's against their religion to pay taxes or follow speed limits. So neither can atheists. But religious people CAN refuse to say this pledge and still get their citizenship. So atheists should be able to as well.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6561

I think if you can be exempt of something for "religious" reasons that should include any belief system including Athiesm. It really should read as due to a moral objection. What religion you are should not matter.