Sunday, November 05, 2017

Citizenship Applicant Challenges "So Help Me God" In Naturalization Oath

Represented by activist Michael Newdow, a French citizen who is a permanent U.S. resident living in Massachusetts filed suit last week challenging the inclusion of the phrase "so held me God" in the Naturalization Oath. The complaint (full text) in Perrier-Bilbo v. Congress of the United States, (D MA, filed 11/2/2017), contends that the presence of these words in the oath violates the Establishment Clause, free exercise clause, RFRA, as well as plaitiff's due process and equal protection rights.  The citizenship application by Plaintiff, who is an atheist, was approved in 2009.  When she objected to the form of the oath at that time, was told that she could either participate in the oath ceremony and omit the “so help me God” language, or schedule a private oath ceremony where the government would not use that phrase. Neither of those alternatives are acceptable to her.  Her complaint contends in part:
By its very nature, an oath that concludes “so help me God” is asserting that God exists..... Moreover, even if the current oath were constitutional, the government of the United States has rendered Plaintiff, on the basis of her sincerely held religious beliefs, unable to take the oath that all others take. This is unfair, demeaning and improper. Plaintiff is unwilling to start her new life as an American citizen in some second-class status solely because she chooses to follow her religious precepts. Under the principles of equal protection, she demands the right to experience the elation, the pride, the sense of camaraderie, and the sense of belonging, which comes from joining her fellow new citizens as an equal participant in the naturalization oath ceremony.
Sacramento Bee reports on the lawsuit.