Skip to main content

(originally posted on dividedundergod.com)

Margaret Doughty, a 64-year old woman from the UK who has spent the past 30+ years in the U.S., is in the process of applying for United States Citizenship and happens to be an atheist. She is currently a permanent resident running non-profit adult literacy organizations, doing her part to enrich the lives of American citizens. In the process of applying for citizenship, all candidates are asked if they’d be willing to take up arms in defense of the United States of America.  Ms. Doughty responded,

“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.”

Despite being an atheist, Ms. Doughty was told that any conscientious objection must be based on religious grounds, not simply moral objections.So as someone who was not religious, and didn’t believe in a god, she had no basis for objecting. Her statement has been denied and she has been informed that to move forward in the process she must submit a letter from the elders of her church to prove her conscientious objections are religiously based.

The USCIS has told her,

“Please submit a letter on official church stationery, attesting to the fact that you are a member in good standing and the church’s official position on the bearing of arms.”
She has been given until June 21st to show that her objection is religiously-based, or her application will be denied.

This is not the first time a non-religious person has raised a conscientious objection to joining the armed forces. In fact, related issues have gone to the Supreme Court and have been ruled in favor of the non-religious objector.  In Welsh v. United States, Elliott Ashton Welsh refused to take up arms on a moral objection rather than a religious one.  However, under the Universal Military Training and Service Act, one could only object to joining the armed forces based on a religious conviction involving a Supreme Being. The Court agreed that Welsh could be considered a conscientious objector based on his personal moral grounds, and that the exemption being purely religious was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

It appears that Margaret Doughty is facing a very similar First Amendment violation. As a conscientious objector to war, she is basing her position on her personal ethical code rather than a religious one. The response from the INS suggesting her claim must be based on religion is the same sort of First Amendment violation we saw in Welsh v. US.

Please join us in spreading the word about this case so that we can fight discrimination against non-believers. Coincidentally, Ms. Doughty’s stepson is Chris Johnson, a New York based photographer. He’s working on a book called A Better Life, which aims to shine a positive light on atheists by featuring 100 nonbelievers who found joy and meaning in their lives without god.

Originally posted to Secular Party of America on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 11:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Progressive Atheists.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

a gilas girl, maxomai, Lupin, Alumbrados, Mimikatz, Sylv, murphy, teacherken, AaronInSanDiego, Geenius at Wrok, Gooserock, Fenric, Pandora, Powered Grace, NYmom, tiponeill, Sprinkles, TechBob, Emerson, karlpk, Shockwave, just another vet, Jim in Chicago, hyperstation, Jay C, ChurchofBruce, GayHillbilly, mslat27, celdd, xynz, Woody, windwardguy46, delver rootnose, Walt starr, Ahianne, forkush, hnichols, hubcap, niemann, regis, Heart of the Rockies, madhaus, RumsfeldResign, TheMomCat, concernedamerican, susans, whenwego, ask, CoolOnion, KMc, phillies, farmerhunt, taonow, Ignacio Magaloni, limae, ceebs, jalbert, Iberian, splashy, Cedwyn, Texknight, NMRed, psnyder, Ryvr, Dallasdoc, Noodles, ssundstoel, cosette, HeyMikey, Jujuree, annetteboardman, RebeccaG, lcrp, zett, zerelda, ybruti, mungley, WisVoter, Deward Hastings, ScienceMom, xyz, vacantlook, eve, nailbender, soros, Skennet Boch, bloomer 101, historys mysteries, Bluesee, marina, ichibon, caul, chimene, democracy inaction, Simplify, dewtx, ChemBob, viral, Brooke In Seattle, YucatanMan, Dobber, fixxit, eru, PSzymeczek, bleeding blue, Sun Tzu, Ice Blue, most peculiar mama, petestern, WisePiper, Shotput8, mph2005, bently, xaxnar, begone, Philpm, Mother Mags, martini, third Party please, kovie, Showman, K S LaVida, Dolphin99, redcedar, Sanuk, tommymet, myboo, Kingsmeg, DrSpalding, Clytemnestra, BlueInARedState, emeraldmaiden, dopper0189, Yellow Canary, ruleoflaw, blueoasis, StrayCat, twigg, 4Freedom, DSPS owl, el cid, onionjim, BlueMississippi, CA Nana, profh, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Stripe, cohenzee, DanC, Bernie68, AllanTBG, OHdog, ZenTrainer, Aaa T Tudeattack, tegrat, One Pissed Off Liberal, FoundingFatherDAR, devis1, offgrid, Positronicus, Da Rat Bastid, edsbrooklyn, FishOutofWater, wildweasels, Matt Z, deepeco, sfbob, Aunt Martha, Rosalie907, cyncynical, SeaTurtle, carpunder, Chico David RN, leonard145b, proud tobeliberal, Empower Ink, gizmo59, JDWolverton, cynndara, rogerdaddy, bkamr, left turn, Justus, JeffW, wayoutinthestix, zerone, OleHippieChick, Youffraita, Aureas2, Involuntary Exile, here4tehbeer, Lujane, royce, Cassandra Waites, MrJayTee, catly, mofembot, codairem, petulans, Notreadytobenice, matching mole, sewaneepat, luckylizard, Karl Rover, Karen Hedwig Backman, Nica24, sagansong, palantir, Mayfly, WearyIdealist, statsone, LaFeminista, Rhysling, ARS, greengemini, ewmorr, Nebraskablue, CamillesDad1, DefendOurConstitution, virginwoolf, moonbatlulu, CaliSista, TheOpinionGuy, kevinpdx, Keith Pickering, Munchkn, stevenwag, sfarkash, Essephreak, herbanreleaf, ruscle, thealater, Its the Supreme Court Stupid, commonmass, coppercelt, Mokurai, TFinSF, serendipityisabitch, mookins, Lost and Found, plankbob, Simple, Eddie L, shyewoods, pixxer, elginblt, anonevent, DiegoUK, Funkygal, DrTerwilliker, cocinero, Anne was here, science nerd, tgrshark13, janemas, Mike08, Bluefin, Lost Left Coaster, StateofEuphoria, spooks51, slowbutsure, implicate order, vahana, moonbat666, asterkitty, Nicci August, CoExistNow, lupinella, Alice Olson, smiley7, trumpeter, boomerchick, marleycat, sethtriggs, IllanoyGal, thomask, Ojibwa, midnight lurker, Yogurt721, Prinny Squad, worldlotus, enhydra lutris, peregrine kate, VTCC73, stevie avebury, Vatexia, too many people, imlpdx, dradams, DRo, Mortifyd, No one gets out alive, Mathazar, YaNevaNo, SuWho, quill, stormicats, Eowyn9, sow hat, Siri, winglion, 2thanks, FloridaSNMOM, JGibson, Horace Boothroyd III, This old man, carolanne, the Don, radical simplicity, BusyinCA, BRog, jes2, lunachickie, Brown Thrasher, Margd, tytalus, rat racer, Glen The Plumber, George3, peptabysmal, left rev, mythatsme, koseighty, Chaddiwicker, Panacea Paola, Sam Sara, countwebb, The grouch, Praxical, eyo, goodpractice, aresea, Yo Bubba, Alhambra, Ree Zen, ORswede, JerryNA, howabout, JosephK74, helpImdrowning, BadKitties, ET3117, k9kiki, Jim Domenico, Ellen Columbo, DarthMeow504, silentpawz, central oregon progressive, Dan Schroeder, Dodgerdog1, eagleray, OldSoldier99, Elizaveta, pierre9045, dream weaver, Nattiq, DividedUnderGod, SheilaBlackadder, Crabb90, deep info, Darwinian Detritus

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site