A British atheist has had her application to become a naturalised citizen of the USA approved – despite refusing to “take up arms to defend the United States.”
Margaret Doughty, who has lived in the United States for 30 years, had been told she would denied citizenship unless she provided proof “on official church stationery” that her status as a conscientious objector was a function of her being a “member in good standing” of a pacifist religious group.
The 64-year-old had been given until Friday to fulfil the request, but the caveat has now been removed and she will be become a naturalised citizen next week, the blog Divided Under God revealed on Thursday.
According to the blog, Doughty’s Congressman Blake Farenthold intervened on her behalf and on Thursday she received the following email from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Houston:
“This service hereby withdraws the request for evidence (RFE) issued on June 7, 2013. This Service accepts your detailed statement in satisfaction of the information requested by the RFE. Your application for naturalisation has been approved.”
The petition urged the reversal of what it calls “unconventional” policy for all such applicants as Doughty, who cite moral objection without religious justification.
It added: "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.”