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.