French atheist sues to remove 'so help me God' from US citizenship oath
A U.S. green card holder has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at removing a reference to “God” from the oath confirming American citizenship.
The plaintiff has been identified as French national Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo who is protesting the phrase “so help me God” over her atheist beliefs.
A recent McClatchy report quoted her legal filing as arguing, “By its very nature, an oath that concludes ‘so help me God’ is asserting that God exists. Accordingly, the current oath violates the first ten words of the Bill of Rights, and to participate in a ceremony which violates that key portion of the United States Constitution is not supporting or defending the Constitution as the oath demands.”
The Bill of Rights starts off by stating in its First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
However, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s official website, those granted U.S. citizenship are not required to say the phrase “so help me God” in the oath of allegiance nor must those abstaining provide testimony or evidence about the decision.
Perrier-Bilbo was given a similar option in 2009 when she was first offered citizenship, but she has reportedly claimed in her current lawsuit that the alternative would make her “feel less than a full new citizen.”
Despite her arguments, previous attempts to remove the word “God” from government-related objects and activities have largely failed.
Courts have rejected attempts to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, in part, because the recitation is voluntary.
And in 1983, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan cast doubt about the actual religious implications of phrases like “In God We Trust,” which appears on U.S. currency.