An atheist seeking U.S. citizenship was allegedly told by the government that she would need to join a church prior to the granting of her request. Margaret Doughty, 64, has lived in America as a permanent resident for more than three decades, but when she approached the government in an effort to secure citizenship, she was in for quite a surprise.
According to Doughty’s account, officials told the woman — a non-believer — that she must join a non-violent church or her quest for citizenship would be rejected. Here’s why: On her application, the U.K. native apparently noted that she objects to a required citizenship pledge to bear arms in defense of the U.S., as she does not support war.
In order to be exempt from this requirement, Doughty was apparently told that she would need to prove that her moral view is rooted in religious sentiment — and that she would need to join a church to do so.
Doughty allegedly needs to prove that she is a member of a house of worship that embraces this view or she will not receive citizenship during her hearing, which is scheduled for Friday, the Huffington Post reports.
Responding to the intriguing circumstance on her behalf, among others, is the American Humanist Association (AHA), a non-theistic organization. Addressed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a letter from the group proclaims, in part:
This letter is written at the request of Margaret Doughty (file #N8C.003346907), who has submitted an application to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Ms. Doughty, an atheist, stated that she objects to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the country. Because her conscientious objector claim is based on her secular, rather than theistic, moral views, however, she was told that her application will be rejected (unless she provides documentation from a church justifying her objection by June 21). This decision is unconstitutional. [...]
Ms. Doughty is a model citizen. She is originally from the United Kingdom and has spent over thirty years in the United States as a permanent resident running non-profit adult literacy organizations. She has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for her service in education.
Problems for the atheist apparently began when she responded to a question surrounding whether she would ever be willing to use firearms to defend the U.S. Doughty said, “I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms.” She then explained that, since she was a child, the immigrant has opposed both using guns and participating in war.
“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,” Doughty said. “My beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God.”
Despite this refusal, she did note that she would be more than willing to perform other work “of national importance” and that she would assist the Armed Forces with tasks that do not involving fighting or combat, if legally required to do so.
Considering that the religious can be considered conscientious objectors, it seems there’s a debate regarding whether non-believers can qualify for this same exemption. In its letter, the AHA maintains that these individuals should qualify, even if they do not belong to a specific religious group.
The nation’s citizenship oath, available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, requires that those who recite it will:
A. Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
B. Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
C. Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), another atheist activist group, also wrote a letter asking that Doughty be given an exemption and claiming that the story, as it has been reported, is unconstitutional in nature.
“It is shocking that USCIS officers would not be aware that a nonreligious yet deeply held belief would be sufficient to attain this exemption,” wrote FFRF staff attorney Andrew L. Seidel.
TheBlaze reached out to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to better understand the issue at hand, but we have not yet heard back from a representative who can explain, from the government’s perspective, what is unfolding surrounding Doughty’s case.
(H/T: Huffington Post)