The first time I heard of the Raelians, in 2002, it was because they were a weird UFO cult that claimed to have cloned a human baby. (Spoiler: They did not.)
In recent years, though, they’ve been fighting First Amendment battles on the basis of religious freedom, which is both hilarious and a good way to gauge how much people are willing to defend beliefs that aren’t their own.
For example, in 2014, when a Florida school district allowed passive distribution of bibles to students, the Raelians said they wanted the chance to give away their literature to kids, too. (So did Satanists. Eventually, the district blocked outside book distributions entirely.)
The latest skirmish involves a French member of the International Raelian Movement who wants U.S. citizenship but doesn’t believe the oath should say “So help me God.” Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo has filed a lawsuit to remove the phrase from the default oath of citizenship.
“I am determined to forego my French citizenship and instead become an American, but I cannot in good conscience participate in a ceremony that violates the US constitution,” said Perrier.Perrier added, “I am unwilling to start my new life as an American citizen in some second-class status solely because I choose to follow my religious precepts.”
“By its very nature, an oath that concludes with, ‘So help me God’ is asserting that God exists,” stated Perrier who filed before a federal court in Massachusetts.
Perrier was given the chance to use a modified oath in a private ceremony, but she rejected that on principle. Why should people who don’t subscribe to the Judeo-Christian God be relegated to a lesser ceremony?
“My hope is for the phrase, ‘So help me God’ to be stricken from future naturalization ceremonies and for this lawsuit to encourage other atheists or agnostics who want to defend the constitution to fight against this anti-constitutional oath,” concluded Perrier.
She’s represented in the lawsuit by attorney Michael Newdow, the atheist who has fought to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency, and “So Help Me God” from the Presidential oath of office.
While the lawsuit was first filed last November in a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, the first official hearing takes place today in Boston.