Town Cancels Immigration Event Over Fed Prayer Ban

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -

A New Jersey town on Saturday canceled a naturalization ceremony at its borough hall because federal immigration officials refused to let the event begin with a prayer.

Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman said he had requested that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services relocate the ceremony. But the agency said it’s a long-standing policy that naturalization ceremonies are conducted to be “welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements.”

Its website notes, however, that new citizens must recite an oath that contains the phrase “so help me G-d” and the Pledge of Allegiance, which contains the phrase “under G-d.”

Both Reiman and immigration officials cited last Monday’s Supreme Court opinion affirming the right of local governments to have prayers at official events.

The citizenship agency said the high court’s ruling does not mean prayers are required, just that they are traditions that “lend gravity to public proceedings.”

Reiman questioned why the prayer portion of the ceremony had been nixed, only to be followed by a requirement that new citizens make references to G-d in order to become Americans.

“It doesn’t make any sense that out of the blue this week they took the position that a prayer can’t be part of the program,” said Reiman, adding they could “host its G-dless ceremony someplace else.”