Monday, December 24, 2007

God-free citizenship for naturalized aliens (and believers in aliens)

Earlier this month at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada, several dozen new Americans took their oath of citizenship, just as I'm sure hundreds or thousands did across the country. Welcome to America, folks. Thanks for asking, seeking, and knocking before just jumping a fence and wading across the border uninvited when we weren't looking.

One man, a former Swiss national, so much wanted to follow the rules that he asked the government to modify the oath so that he could justify the oath with his conscience.

The U.S. government didn't just change it without a little pressure, in the form of a lawsuit Thomas Kaenzig filed in federal court against immigration officials, news sources reported.

Kaenzig doesn't believe in God, and thus he objected to the closing phrase of the oath, "So help me God."

He says he left Switzerland because of religious persecution. Kaenzig is a Raelian, and believes mankind was created not by God, but by a race of interstellar aliens.

Kaenzig is also a pacifist, and objected to being required to swear he would "bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law... [and] perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law."

Federal officials allowed Kaenzig to take the oath without the phrase "so help me God" and the phrases about military service.

Or at least, that's the "official" story as written by a Channel 8 CBS-affiliated reporter and approved by an editor, one or both of whom must either be intellectually lazy or have axes to grind with Raelians. I would imagine the story received a good deal of print and airtime throughout the CBS network, and provided many readers and viewers a few moments of grumbling about "atheist communist wacko cultists" or some such.

A quick look at the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 8, Volume 1 (Revised as of January 1, 2002), Chapter I, Part 337, Section 337.1 gives us a different take on the issue.

Subsection (a) gives us the oath as it is usually administered:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Subsection (b) allows alterations and deletions.
When a petitioner or applicant for naturalization, by reason of religious training and belief (or individual interpretation thereof), or for other reasons of good conscience, cannot take the oath prescribed in paragraph (a) of this section with the words "on oath" and "so help me God" included, the words "and solemnly affirm" shall be substituted for the words "on oath," the words "so help me God" shall be deleted, and the oath shall be taken in such modified form. Any reference to 'oath of allegiance' in this chapter is understood to mean equally 'affirmation of allegiance' as described in this paragraph.
So we're left holding the question: Why was this news?

Obviously, since alterations have been allowed at least since 2002, and perhaps much further back (as I don't know what the 2002 revision of this particular law entailed), non-believers in God have taken this oath without the "so help me God" clause before.

I can find no references in the law that permit the clauses about military service to be deleted, but according to Ben's Guide to Government, these clauses are sometimes omitted.

So we're still left wondering would the story have been written at all had Kaenzig not been a Raelian?

I know that I wouldn't be writing this story had he not been.

And anyway, doesn't Jesus say in Matthew 5:33-35 that swearing is forbidden altogether? How can one swear on the Holy Bible when the Holy Bible itself says not to swear?

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1 comment:

  1. Ya know, beaurocrats, such as school board officials, and, so it seems, imigration officials, tend to not read the law, and just react in the most extreme way, to try to avoid controversy by creating it.
    Prayer, touching, arguments, wearing black overcoats. It's believed to be easier to ban it all, and then catch the fall out from the extremists, who actually know their rights and want to argue for them.


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