A 64 year-old British woman has been told she has to be part of a religion to be a conscientious objector to taking up arms while applying for US citizenship. The USCIS has reportedly told Margaret Doughty she has until June 21 of this year to “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.”
DividedUnderGod — 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.