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Survey: Should an atheist be denied U.S. Citizenship?

Margaret Doughty, a 64-year-old atheist and permanent U.S. resident for more than 30 years, applied to become a U.S. Citizen. To become a U.S. citizen, she was asked if she was willing to take up arms to defend the United States. She said no, objecting on moral grounds:

“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.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, told her that, in order for her objection to pass muster, she has to be a member in good standing of a religious institution that forbids such violence. If she does not, her application for citizenship will be denied at her June 21 hearing. Her lawyers are arguing that precedent in U.S. law requires that simply having this sincerely held belief, whether it is based on religious or nonreligious convictions, is sufficient for citizenship. 

What do you think?


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We will share the results of this survey–and our opinion–in the near future.