- (Photo: facebook/Margaret Doughty)
An atheist woman whom the USCIS asked to deliver proof of membership to a church by Friday or risk the rejection of her U.S. citizenship application after she declined to "take up arms to defend the United States" on moral grounds, was relieved of the request by the agency and approved for citizenship by the agency on Thursday.
A report from Divided Under God noted that Margaret Doughty, 64, who is originally from the U.K. but has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, objected to bearing arms under the conscientious objector status but was told by the USCIS that only religious-based objections are valid and was given until Friday to prove she qualified.
"The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms," Doughty explained on her recent citizenship application, according to this report.
"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," she added.
As her story began gaining traction publicly, Doughty's case caught the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association which both wrote letters to the USCIS on Doughty's behalf. The atheist's local Congressman, Blake Farenthold, assisted in getting her case reviewed at the highest levels of the USCIS.
On Thursday, Doughty received an e-mail from the congressional office with a message from the USCIS that reads: "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 naturalization has been approved."
According to Divided Under God, "Margaret Doughty's case can be seen as a victory for the non-religious in the U.S., many times referred to as the 'nones' (based on religious affiliation questionnaire categories). Often called the fastest growing demographic in the country, those not affiliated with a religion are said to make up about 20 percent of the population."
Doughty's stepson, Chris Johnson, who is a New York-based photographer, is on the verge of releasing his book, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy and Meaning in a World Without God.