Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61; 66 S. Ct. 826; 90 L. Ed. 1084 (1946)

Facts—In 1943 Girouard filed a petition for naturalization in the District Court of Massachusetts. He stated in his application that he understood the principles of the U.S. government and that he was willing to take the oath of allegiance required of all citizens-to-be. However, he said that he would not bear arms in the defense of the country, but that he would serve as a non- combatant. He was a Seventh Day Adventist and his religious views did not permit him to bear arms. He was admitted to citizenship by the District Court, but this decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals.

Question—Does the fact that an alien refuses to bear arms deny him citizenship?


ReasonsJ. Douglas (5–3). 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. To hold that it is required is to read it into the act by unreasonable implication. The Court could not assume that Congress intended to make such an abrupt and radical departure from our traditions unless it spoke in unequivocal terms.

Religious scruples against bearing arms have been recognized by Congress in the various draft laws. This is evidence that one can support and defend our government even though his religious convictions prevent him from bearing arms. “We cannot believe that the oath was designed to exact something more from one person than from another.”

J. Stone authored a dissent arguing that the majority decision conflicted with precedents, which Congress had not changed, despite having had the opportunity to do so.

NoteGirouard reversed U.S. v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929) and

United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605 (1931).

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