CARTERET, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Middlesex County town is refusing to hold a naturalization ceremony at borough hall, claiming federal immigration officials are refusing to allow them to begin with a prayer.
Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman has requested that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services relocate the Saturday ceremony, claiming he was told by immigration officials that the prayer had to be removed from the ceremony’s program.
Reiman issued a statement saying it is borough policy to open all events at city hall with a prayer and a moment of silence.
“In fact, the oath that they were scheduled to take to become U.S. citizens acknowledges God,” Reiman told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.
Reiman said the town celebrates diversity and insists the prayer is nondenominational, but says USCIS can “host its godless ceremony someplace else.” The agency has moved the ceremony to Newark.
USCIS issued a response to the controversy Friday evening.
“In line with long-standing USCIS policy and our priority to keep the focus on those who are completing the sometimes long, personal journey to attain U.S. citizenship, naturalization ceremonies are conducted in a meaningful manner which is welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements,” spokeswoman Katherine Tichacek said in a statemnet.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayers at town council meetings do not violate the Constitution even if they routinely stress Christianity.
“But their position on it was the federal government and federal agencies are exempt from that decision,” Reiman said.
Tichacek’s statement said the Supreme Court decision indeed does not extend to federal agencies.
“Some justices specifically reference forcibly including prayer in a naturalization ceremony as crossing a constitutional line,” the statement said.
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