respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the first Amendment to the Constitution. So where does Immigration get off telling a woman she has to join a church to become a citizen? It’s actually worse than that sentence makes it appear. It’s not that she’s an atheist. Nope, it’s that she’s a pacifist.
Margaret Doughty has been in the US for 30 years. She runs a non-profit working to increase adult literacy. She applied to become a citizen. One of the questions citizens are asked is if they will bear arms in the defense of the US. This is what she said in reply:
“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.”
I’m cool with that. She’s willing (at 64) to be drafted, and work in non-combatant roles, or to be put to work on civilian efforts the gov’t thinks are essential to the war effort. That’s certainly in keeping with the thrust of the question.
Immigration told her that’s not acceptable. The only justification they will accept is that a pacifist church vouches for her.
That’s what makes it worse. That is, in fact, a regulation regarding the establishment of a religion. It’s not as obvious as, “you must be a Christian”, but what it says is that one cannot have a moral vision which values human life unless you can point to a deity which justifies it. In effect it assets the US Gov’t believes not only that all morality comes from a god, but that absent a god morality can’t exist.