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Law School Case Brief

Girouard v. United States - 328 U.S. 61, 66 S. Ct. 826 (1946)


It is at best treacherous to find in congressional silence alone the adoption of a controlling rule of law.


Petitioner a native of Canada, filed his petition for naturalization in the District Court. He stated in his application that he understood the principles of the government of the United States, believed in its form of government, and was willing to take the oath of allegiance. To the question in the application "If necessary, are you willing to take up arms in defense of this country?" he replied, "No (Non-combatant) Seventh Day Adventist." He explained that answer before the examiner by saying "it is a purely religious matter with me, I have no political or personal reasons other than that." He did not claim before his Selective Service board exemption from all military service but only from combatant military duty. At the hearing in the District Court petitioner testified that he was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination, of whom approximately 10,000 were then serving in the armed forces of the United States as non-combatants, especially in the medical corps; and that he was willing to serve in the army but would not bear arms. The District Court admitted him to citizenship. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 


Was petitioner’s refusal to declare that he is willing to bear arms in the defense of the United States of America a ground for denying his application for citizenship?




The United States Supreme Court held that the oath required of aliens did not require that they promise to bear arms. Congress had not expressly made any such finding a prerequisite to citizenship, and to hold that, the Court would be required was to read that promise into 8 U.S.C.S. § 735(b) by implication. The Court refused to imply or assume that Congress intended to make such an abrupt and radical departure from tradition, unless Congress spoke in unequivocal terms. The bearing of arms, important as it was, was not the only way in which the country could be supported and defended, even in times of great peril. The fact that petitioner's role might have been limited by religious convictions rather than by physical characteristics had no necessary bearing on his attachment to the country, or on his willingness to support and defend it to his utmost. The Court concluded that one could adequately discharge his obligations as a citizen by rendering non-combatant as well as combatant services.

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