French Woman Sues USA Over “God” in Citizenship Oath

A French woman who claims she wants to become an American is suing the government because the oath of citizenship has four words at the end that rub her the wrong way.

Those four words: “So help me God.”

So Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo, who has lived in Massachusetts since 2000,
is suing. She says the inclusion of the phrase is an unconstitutional violation of her religious freedom. Her lawyer – famed atheist Michael Newdow – garnered headlines when he argued – and lost – before the Supreme Court that the Pledge of Allegiance should have the words “under God” removed.

“By its very nature, an oath that concludes “so help me God” is asserting that God exists,” the lawsuit, filed in federal court Thursday, says. “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.”

This is the second time Bilbo has had a chance to take the oath of citizenship, the Miami Herald reports.

The first time was in 2009. She was offered the chance to participate in a private ceremony that would have allowed her to leave those words out, but she declined. Rather, she waited and wanted to file a lawsuit because the phrase should be removed for everyone.

She named some pretty big defendants, including Congress, the entire United States of America and the current US Citizenship and Immigration Services director.

“The phrase ‘so help me God,’” claims the suit, “Sends the ancillary message to members of the audience that disbelieve in God that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to those that believe in God that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

This suit, like Newdow’s one in 2004, isn’t likely to go anywhere, however.

“Courts generally have not been receptive to this in the context of the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a First Amendment expert and dean of Berkeley Law School.

In that case, Newdow argued that having his daughter listen to the words “under God” violated her First Amendment rights, even though she was not required to participate in the pledge or utter the words.

Now Newdow is one of the lawyers in Perrier-Bilbo’s suit.

In another case of religious freedom, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that a cross-shaped memorial in Bladensburg, Md, created in honor of Americans who died in World War I must be taken down.

The court said the cross is unconstitutional because it stands on public land and is in the shape of the “core symbol of Christianity.”

Back in 2014, the American Humanist Association (their motto is: “being good without a god”) – filed a lawsuit, saying that the memorial is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and demanded it be demolished, altered or removed. They said that the cross carries “an inherently religious message and creates the unmistakable appearance of honoring only Christian servicemen.”