18 November 2008


According to this source, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Souter has agreed to review a suit claiming Barack Obama may not be eligible to be president of the United States. As we know, the Constitution requires that any president be a natural-born citizen. The lawsuit cites Obama's grandmother (on his father's side) as claiming that Obama was actually born in Kenya, but his mother registered his birth shortly afterward in Hawaii. Matters are complicated by the fact that Obama has been unable or unwilling to provide an authentic original of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Here's the twist: the argument goes that even if Obama were able to produce an authentic Hawaiian birth certificate, he would still be ineligible to hold office based on the U.S. Nationality Act of 1940, section 317(b), which holds that minors lose their status as American citizens if their parents permanently move to another country. Because Obama's mother married an Indonesian and moved to Indonesia, Obama would have lost his American citizenship along with any eligibility to be president of the United States.

If the Supreme Court grants certiorari, this would be rather huge. I wait with proverbial bated breath to learn the outcome.

(Nod to Fr. Mercer, who often sends interesting tidbits worth passing along)

This website cites the relevant portions of the Nationality Act and responds to Berg's claims based on this law. Although the Act does indeed cause the loss of citizenship status to an unemancipated minor when his custodial parent expatriates, it also provides that the minor can retain that status if he begins permanent residence in the U.S. before the age of 23--which Obama has done.

If the Hawaiian certificate of live birth is authentic, then Obama would have been a dual U.S. and British citizen upon birth (because Kenya was a British colony); when Kenya became independent two years later, Obama's British citizenship automatically transformed into Kenyan citizenship. Thus he held dual U.S. and Kenyan citizenship from 1963 onwards until he reached the age of 21, at which time his Kenyan citizenship expired.

But the plot thickens. Although the Obama campaign has posted what looks like an authentic Certificate of Live Birth on its website, Berg is requesting the original Vault Birth Certificate, which has been sealed by the state of Hawaii under orders by the Governor. Instead of producing the Vault Birth Certificate (which Obama personally could do), his campaign has chosen instead to fight to have the lawsuit dismissed. According to Berg, the Certificate of Live Birth would register Obama's birth in Hawaii as a "natural born" U.S. citizen, even if he had been born outside the country; the Vault Birth Certificate would clarify where he was actually born.

The Supreme Court is demanding that Obama respond by December 1, after which Berg will be allowed to respond, and the Court will then decide whether or not to accept the case. On December 13, the electoral college will meet officially to cast its votes for the president-elect.

Left: A certification of live birth; Right: A vault birth certificate from Hawaii