So Help Me God and the Impact of the Bladensburg Peace Cross
As reported at the Religion Clause, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has permitted the optional inclusion of “So Help Me God” in the oath of naturalization. Referring to the test used by the Supreme Court regarding the Bladensburg Peace Cross, the Court said:
We follow the Supreme Court’s most recent framework and apply American Legion’s presumption of constitutionality to the phrase “so help me God” in the naturalization oath because we consider the inclusion of similar words to be a ceremonial, longstanding practice as an optional means of completing an oath. And because the record does not demonstrate a discriminatory intent in maintaining those words in the oath or “deliberate disrespect” by the inclusion of the words, Perrier-Bilbo cannot overcome the presumption.
That amount of legal defense almost seems ridiculous, given that the plaintiff was complaining about an optional phrase. She wasn’t trying to avoid saying something she didn’t want to; she wanted to prevent others the option of saying it. She’d already been given more than one option to omit the phrase:
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services offered Perrier-Bilbo two alternatives: to either omit the nonsecular phrase in a private ceremony, or to join other new citizens in saying the full oath, but opting to stay silent as everyone else recites the words “so help me God.” Neither option was acceptable to Perrier-Bilbo, who filed suit in 2017 and appealed that case’s dismissal to the First Circuit.
The lawsuit had nothing to do with her own rights or happiness; she only wanted to deny the same to others, something even the Court noted [emphasis added]:
the Free Exercise Clause does not entitle her to a change in the oath’s language as it pertains to others…
To that end, the court wrote that her offense does not equate to coercion, nor is inconvenience a “substantial burden.”
This case marks only the most recent in which the Bladensburg Peace Cross case has been cited, resulting in a protection of religious liberty – in this case, from a person who wanted to prevent others from having the option of saying the word “God.”
This trend bodes well for many potential issues of religion in the US military, even beyond the military oaths of office and enlistment (which have already been attacked in the past). For example, one of the issues known to be in Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s rainy day complaint queue is Article VI of the Code of Conduct, which virtually every US servicemember is taught and many are required to memorize [emphasis added]:
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
The Code of Conduct is based solely on presidential executive order under his authority as the Commander-in-Chief, not in any US law, and could be easily amended by a President.
The Supreme Court under President Trump defended the Bladensburg Cross in what has become a watershed case. Even so, religious liberty and the US Constitution will need to be defended again in the future.
Consider that when you vote this November.