United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG DISTRICT JUDGE
2000, Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo PPerrier-Bilbo")
emigrated from France and settled in Scituate, Massachusetts.
In due course, she applied to become a United States citizen.
Having completed all the necessary requirements, she is fully
eligible for United States citizenship.
balks, however, at the words "so help me God" which
conclude the oath of allegiance administered at United States
naturalization ceremonies. United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services PUSCIS") offered her a private
induction which would omit the words she finds offensive. Not
surprisingly, she wishes to participate in the public
ceremony with other new citizens and their families and
friends. USCIS welcomed her at such a ceremony, assuring her
she need not herself say those four words and her oath of
allegiance and United States citizenship would nonetheless be
will have none of it. Evidently, she seeks a ceremony where
neither the official administering the oath nor the new
citizens will conclude by uttering the phrase "so help
alleges that the phrase's inclusion in the oath violates
the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First
Amendment, Compl. ¶¶ 153-70, ECF No. 1; the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000bb-2000bb-4, Compl. ¶¶
171-82; and her rights to equal protection and procedural due
process under the Fifth Amendment, Compl. ¶¶
183-97. Perrier-Bilbo seeks a declaration that these
provisions have been violated and an injunction permanently
enjoining the government "from placing "so help me
God' in future naturalization oath ceremonies," as
well as reimbursement of the cost of her second
naturalization application. Id. at 41.
United States and Francis Cissna, the Director of USCIS
(collectively, the "Defendants"), move to dismiss
the complaint for failure to state a claim and lack of
standing. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss & Mem. Supp.
("Defs.' Mot."), ECF No. 10.
November 2, 2011, Perrier-Bilbo filed a complaint
against the Defendants in this Court. See ECF No. 1. The
complaint includes claims for violations of the Establishment
Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment;
the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000bb-2000bb-4; and the Fifth Amendment. Id.
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on February 22,
2018. Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 10. On May 8, 2018, this Court
heard oral argument on the motion, during which it advised
the parties that it would treat the motion as cross-motions
for summary judgment and took the motion under advisement.
See Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 20.
is a citizen of France who moved to Scituate, Massachusetts
in 2000. Compl. ¶ 56. In 2002, she became a permanent
resident of the United States, and in 2004, she was issued a
green card. Id. ¶ 57. In 2008, she applied for
naturalization, fulfilling the necessary paperwork and
interview requirements, and her application was approved.
Id. ¶¶ 58-66. She then received a form
indicating that she was to take the oath of citizenship on
March 4, 2009. Id. ¶ 67.
January 2009, Perrier-Bilbo wrote to USCIS requesting that
she be permitted to take the oath without the phrase "so
help me God." Id. ¶ 69. USCIS informed her
that she could either participate in the oath ceremony and
omit the "so help me God" language, or schedule a
private oath ceremony in which the government would omit the
phrase in administering the oath. Id. ¶ 70. A
few months later, Perrier-Bilbo received a letter from USCIS
stating that she had fifteen days to notify USCIS of her
decision, and that if she declined to respond or choose one
of the two options, USCIS would reopen her application and
deny it for lack of prosecution. Id. ¶ 73.
retained counsel, who informed USCIS that neither of the two
options provided were satisfactory to Perrier-Bilbo.
Id. ¶ 74. Further attempts to negotiate were
unsuccessful, and USCIS eventually denied Perrier-Bilbo's
application as abandoned, informing her that she could file a
new application in the future. Id. ¶ 80. After
years of trying and failing to obtain a waiver of the
application fee, Perrier-Bilbo filed a second application in
December 2014, which was granted. Id. ¶¶
83-84, 103, 108. She was again sent a form indicating that
she was scheduled for a naturalization oath ceremony to be
held on April 6, 2017. Id. ¶ 122.
day, Perrier-Bilbo arrived at the United States District
Court in Boston, where the ceremony was to take place, and
attempted to explain her objection to an individual at the
courthouse. Id. ¶¶ 123-25. That person
told her that she didn't "have to say
anything.'' Id. ¶ 125. Perrier-Bilbo
further objected, and was eventually told to forgo the
ceremony that day and contact USCIS. ¶ 126.
speaking to someone at USCIS, Perrier-Bilbo was sent a letter
in August 2017, notifying her that she was scheduled to
participate in a naturalization oath ceremony taking place on
September 14, 2017. Id. ¶ 132. The letter
stated that due to her religious objections, she may take a
modified oath in which she may decline to recite the portion
of the oath to which she objects. Id. ¶ 133.
"[H]owever," the letter continued, "please
note that the full oath of allegiance will be administered on
this day." Id. The letter informed her that the
court could instead schedule a "private naturalization
ceremony to take the modified oath of allegiance as you have
requested." Id. ¶ 134. Perrier-Bilbo did
not attend the ceremony. Id. ¶ 136.
Defendants move to dismiss Perrier-Bilbo's complaint
under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Defs.' Mot. 1. Because Rule 12(b)(1) implicates this