A woman who was nearly denied U.S. citizenship over her lack of church membership will soon be naturalized thanks to a public outcry, according to Divided Under God, which first reported the story.


The immigration office in Houston had informed Margaret Doughty, 64, that she would need to provide proof of membership in a church if she wished to gain conscientious objector status. Doughty, an atheist, had provided the immigration office with a secular rather than religious explanation for why she objected to war.

In response, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association and others sent letters to the immigration office demanding Doughty be granted conscientious objector status. The office withdrew the request on Thursday and approved her application.

"The Constitution requires that secular beliefs and religious beliefs be treated equally under the law, and we’re pleased that officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have reversed course and recognized this," Bill Burgess, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a statement. "We hope Margaret Doughty’s case ensures that non-religious applicants for U.S. citizenship are treated fairly."