Hello everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week's edition of immigration matters.
Many of you have applied for citizenship or would apply for citizenship in the near future. The application for naturalization asks various questions, one of them being whether you are willing to bear arms on behalf of the United States. This question is asked because the oath of allegiance requires the new citizen to bear arms for the United States whenever required by law.
The majority of applicants would probably have no problems in undertaking the obligations of the oath, one of which is to bear arms for the United States. Even a person who is insincere often has little reluctance in taking the oath since the requirement to bear arms is for the future and does not entail immediate responsibilities. But taking such an oath still causes difficulty for a tiny group of devout and determined opponents to military service.
There are many conscientious objectors among South Asians, particularly those who have been influenced by the Gandhian philosophy of Ahimsa or nonviolence. Conscientious objectors have deep religious or philosophical convictions which they are unwilling to compromise. Generally these highly principled people would make excellent citizens. However, their strongly held beliefs, honestly expressed, have often impeded their ability to attain American citizenship.
In three controversial cases held between World War I and World War II, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a person who would not bear to undertake arms for this country, if required to do so, could not qualify for citizenship. In each instance, there was no likelihood that the applicant would ever be called for military service, but they refused to take the oath of allegiance if it involved an undertaking to bear arms. One of these cases involved a woman who was a noted lecturer and writer, another a professor of divinity who served as a military chaplain in World War I, and the third a woman who served as a nurse in World War I.
Fortunately the Supreme Court subsequently overruled these decisions, and held that a conscientious objection to military service was not incompatible with an unqualified oath of allegiance.
Similar modifications were made in the Immigration Act of 1952. The oath now requires the applicant to perform the following service on behalf of the United States, when required:
To bear arms;
To perform noncombatant military service; and
To perform civilian work of national importance.
However, an applicant who satisfies the INS that because of religious training and belief he or she is opposed to bearing arms will be permitted to take an oath with only the latter two undertakings. If the applicant is opposed to all military service, he or she will be permitted to take an oath with only the third undertaking.
The present law defines religious training and belief as a commitment arising from belief in a Supreme Being, and not from political, sociological or philosophical views, or merely a personal moral code. However, the INS will also bestow consciously objector status to one who may not believe in a personalized God, but whose opposition to military service is based on a sincere and meaningful belief based upon a power or being, or upon a faith, to which all else is subordinate.
If the claim of a conscientious objector is recognized, he or she can take a modified oath of allegiance
I hope you found this segment informative and helpful. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Cyrus D. Mehta at 212-686-1581. The number once again is 212-686-1581. You could also e-mail us at email@example.com
or visit our website at www.cyrusmehta.com
This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks