Thursday, 9 November 2017

'So Help Me God' : Atheist Immigrant Sues America Government

Atheist Immigrant Sues Gov't to Remove 'So Help Me God' in US Citizenship Oath


A French national and green card holder who resides in Massachusetts has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government over its citizenship oath, which ends with "so help me God."

In her lawsuit, Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo, an atheist as well as a resident of Scituate, claims she would like to become an American citizen but she can't do so for the reason that oath demands her to say those four words, according to MassLive.com.

"By its very nature, an oath that indicates 'so help me God' is saying that God exists," says the lawsuit. "Accordingly, the present oath violates the initial 10 words of the Bill of Rights, and to take part in a ceremony which violates that key element of the United States Constitution is not supporting or safeguarding the Constitution as the oath demands."

Perrier-Bilbo was handed the chance to use a modified oath or take part in an exclusive citizenship ceremony, but she insists the inclusion of "so help me God" is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

"By putting a religious statement (to which Plaintiff does not adhere) into the Oath of Naturalization, and then forcing Plaintiff to make use of a replacement oath (so that she must feel less than a new citizen), Defendants substantially burden Plaintiff in her exercise of religion," the suit says.

The legal action is unlikely to alter much, Erwin Chemerinsky, a First Amendment expert and dean of Berkeley Law, was quoted as saying. "Courts usually have not been open to this in the context of the Pledge of Allegiance."

Atheists routinely bring cases challenging alleged government endorsements of religion.

A Washington, D.C.-based secularist group, American Humanist Association, a week ago filed a response brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in its litigation against a Texas school district's prayer policy at public board meetings, expecting to appeal a lower court's decision ruling in favour of Birdville Independent School District.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that school districts may not subject their students to prayer and has never made an exception to this rule for school board meetings," Monica Miller, senior counsel for the AHA's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a statement. "Forcing students to select from attending board meetings to be able to receive school credit or recognition for academic achievements and not attending only to avoid personally offensive religious rituals runs afoul longstanding constitutional principles."

In August 2016, U.S. District Judge John McBryde ruled in favour of the school district, citing the Supreme Court decision Town of Greece v. Galloway, which made it possible for Christian prayers to be given at county commission public meetings.

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