Girouard v. United States
Decided on Apr. 22, 1946; 328 US 61


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Freedom of religion, citizenship, conscientious objector

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does the oath of allegiance to "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic" required of aliens seeking naturalization, oblige the individuals to bear arms in time of war despite their religious belief?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

In 1943, petitioner James Girouard filed a petition for naturalization, seeking to become a US citizen. He was willing to take the oath of allegiance, but when he was asked whether he would be willing to bear arms in the defense of the United States, he replied that he was a Seventh Day Adventist, and that his religion prohibited him from combatant military duty. He was willing to serve in the military, but only in a noncombatant position.

The District Court admitted Girouard to US citizenship. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, based on previous US Supreme Court decisions in United States v. Schwimmer, 279 US 644; United States v. Macintosh, 283 US 605, and United States v. Bland, 283 US 636. On certiorari the US Supreme Court overruled Macintosh, Bland and Schwimmer and reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals.
B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Messrs. Homer Cummings and William D. Donnelly, both of Washington DC, for petitioner. Mr. Frederick Bernays Wiener, of Providence, RI, for respondent.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The oath required of aliens does not in terms require that they promise to bear arms. Nor has Congress expressly made any such finding a prerequisite to citizenship...

As we recently stated... 'Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men...' The test oath is abhorrent to our tradition. Over the years Congress has meticulously respected that tradition and even in time of war has sought to accommodate the military requirements to the religious scruples of the individual. We do not believe that Congress intended to reverse that policy when it came to draft the naturalization oath.

We conclude that the Schwimmer, Macintosh and Bland cases do not state the correct rule of law."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 3 Con

  • Douglas, W.Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stone, H. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Reed, S. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals; the Supreme Court reversed in a 5-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent