The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a change in policy regarding the oath taken by naturalization candidates: They will no longer be required “to declare that they will ‘bear arms on behalf of the United States’ and ‘perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States.’”
Exclusion on religious and moral grounds has its roots in the Founding era, some will point out.
“After the Declaration of Independence, a number of state constitutions specifically recognized the rights of conscientious objectors,” the book Congressional Protection of Religious Liberty documents. “The 1776 Pennsylvania constitution provided: ‘Nor can any man who is conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms, be justly compelled thereto…’”
Likewise, the constitutions of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine provided similar exemptions. Those were practical recognition concessions concerning people and faiths that were already established at the time.
Still, this latest move by the Obama administration leaves open some questions.
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