It doesn't happen often, so mark the calendar. A bureaucracy has actually bowed to the wishes of the people.
Somebody in the new Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services planned to celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 17 by changing the oath of citizenship that new citizens take when they are naturalized. The plan was to make it immediately effective, using it at an immigrant swearing-in ceremony and publishing it in the Federal Register on the same day.
Fortunately, this covert mischief was discovered in time and denounced by the American Legion, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. The bureaucrats got the message and announced they were going back to the drawing board.
I hope that's not just face-saving language. The bureau has a big job keeping terrorists and hatemongers from other cultures out of our country, and it shouldn't be spending time trying to rewrite the oath of citizenship.
A bureau representative said the agency wanted the oath to be less arcane and more meaningful. That argument is nonsense because the agency's proposed rewrite is less meaningful than the present oath.
There is nothing wrong with the current oath, and there was no public demand to change it. It is really outrageous that the nameless bureaucrats tried to make this change without authorization from Congress and without public comment.
Those who become naturalized U.S. citizens are required to take this oath: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen."
The redundancy ("absolutely and entirely," "renounce and abjure," "subject or citizen") is clear, emphatic, and essential.
The bureau revision would substitute: "I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state." That is simply not good enough.
Osama Bin Laden is not a "foreign state," but he does come within the definition of "foreign prince, potentate or sovereignty," and his minions are his subjects, not his citizens. Did the bureau think it is no longer important for naturalized citizens to renounce loyalty to the likes of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda?
The current oath of citizenship further states: "I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law." The bureau revision is not satisfactory.
It omits the familiar U.S. expression "bear arms" and instead gives the naturalized citizen the option of defending the United States "either by military, noncombatant, or civilian service." No wonder the American Legion objected.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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