News & Events

Survey Results: A landslide vote in support of atheist seeking citizenship

Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent survey!

In a blog post last week, we asked you to weigh in on a particularly interesting news item. We asked if Margaret Doughty should be denied citizenship because she is an atheist and a resounding majority of you (98%) said “no.” Nearly all the respondents believed that her personal religiosity should not play a factor in her citizenship eligibility.  

According to the comments, it seemed the principal reason respondents disagreed was their belief in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The other major reason was the apparent conflation of morality and religion. When Margaret Doughty conscientiously objected to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the nation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services called for evidence of her religious affiliation in a misguided attempt to establish her ethical baseline.

Judging by the fact that 98% of you replied that Doughty should not be denied, we believe it’s safe to say that there is wide support for the USCIS’ reversal (Doughty was granted citizenship days later). Your elaborations on the topic were fantastic.

Here’s a selection of what you had to say to “Why Doughty should or shouldn’t be denied citizenship?”

  • One can be a good citizen and not believe in God. The government should not be in a position to dictate that a person belong to a prescribed religion.
  • A person's faith or lack of same in no way reflects their ability to be a "good" citizen. To further complicate this matter, however, the initial denial of her citizenship seems to have been based primarily on her conscientious objection to bear arms or contribute to warfare in any way. My understanding is that conscientious objectors have always been required to confirm that such beliefs stem from their religion – as if one can't object to the insanity of war without church doctrine having instructed one to do so. I find this specific point reprehensible as well as the overall principal behind the original decision to deny citizenship.
  • Because ethics and morality are not necessarily connected to a belief in God.
  • Because America offers people the freedom of choosing their religion — or not.
  • Religious preferences have no relevance in the decision. We have freedom OF religion which also encompasses freedom FROM religion. It is personal conscience which is protected under our constitution. PERIOD. Their initial response is unconstitutional.
  • Religious faith is a personal, not social or national, choice.
  • Both the first amendment clauses prohibiting the establishment of religion and protecting the free exercise of religion seem to be directly opposed to this position. So, too, does the clause in Article VI of the Constitution that bars any religious qualification … For the U.S. government to take this stance in a case so obviously absurd–hypothetical compulsory military service by a 64 year old– is deeply troubling.

Again, thank you all of your responses. And, although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we are using every response to inform our work. We look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it! Please comment below or send the questions our way!