FFRF Asks Immigration Office to Drop Religious Oath for Naturalized Citizens

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to drop mention of a deity from its “Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens.” The national state/church watchdog made the request on behalf of several complainants seeking U.S. citizenship, who were dismayed to be confronted with a religious test for citizenship. The oath to swear in new citizens ends “so help me God.”

The Foundation pointed out that Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations actually provides for a secular affirmation for “any reasons of good conscience.” The words “shall solemnly affirm” can be substituted for the word “oath,” “so help me God” can be deleted to protect personal conscience. In USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual 75.1, the policy handbook for officials presiding over the naturalization process, it advises: “This modification may be granted upon the applicant’s request. Applicants are not required to provide documentary evidence or extensive testimony to support a request for this type of modification.

“The problem,” noted Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in her letter of complaint to the director of the immigration office, “is that these rights are not delineated at the webpage listing the actual oath. It therefore amounts to a situation in which the federal government appears to favor those those who believe in a god over those who do not, which is a violation of the law.”

Gaylor said it is not an individual problem, it is a constitutional right, and should not be left up to individuals to speak up, complain or find the right official or judge in order to honor their request.

The Foundation said it would be ideal if the Office would “drop the unnecessary religious oath altogether.” After all, Gaylor pointed out, the U.S. Constitution itself is godless, and prohibits a religious test for public office (Art. 6).

“It seems ironic and dismaying that new citizens should be routinely expected to make a religious oath in order to become citizens of our secular republic. This hardly engenders a respect for the constitutional principle of separation between church and state that is the bedrock of our nation.”

The Foundation asked that the immigration office, at minimum, include full references to the right to affirm or to avoid swearing to a god wherever the religious oath appears or is used–whether at a government website, on the actual form, or during the naturalization ceremony itself.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
c/o U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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