A 65-year-old atheist who has lived in the United States for 30 years may be denied her application for naturalised citizenship unless she joins a church by Friday.
Margaret Doughty, who is originally from the UK, faces having her application refused because she declined to “take up arms to defend the United States.”
Naturalisation applicants are required to swear such an oath, but conscientious objectors can obtain an exemption, Raw Story reports.
It adds the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Houston has responded to Doughty’s conscientious objector claim by stating only religious-based objections are valid and asking her to provide “official church stationery”, showing she is “a member of good standing” of a church that opposes the bearing of arms.
Doughty’s case has been taken up by several atheist groups including The Freedom From Religion Foundation and The American humanist Association.
A petition has also been launched at Daily Kos.
The petition urges the reversal of what it calls “unconventional” policy for all such applicants as Doughty, who cite moral objection without religious justification.
It adds: «Conscientious objectors who had moral (but not religious) reasons for not joining the military were found to be unlawfully discriminated against, as in Welsh v. United States. Likewise, requiring anyone who applies for US citizenship to provide proof of their religion is a blatant violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.»
Doughty’s objection and explanation reads as follows:
“I am sure the law would never require a 64 year-old woman like myself to bear arms, but if I am required to answer this question, I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. 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 … my beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God … I want to make clear, however, that I am willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction or to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States if and when required by the law to do so.”
Margaret Doughty, British Atheist, ‘Will Be Denied US Citizenship Unless She Joins A Church’.