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AGO 1957 No. 65 - May 22, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


(1) Foreign nationals are not prohibited from serving in local civil defense organizations but they must take an oath of allegiance to the U. S.

(2) Seventh Day Adventists may attach any statement to their personnel records which does not limit or qualify their oath of allegiance.

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                                                                   May 22, 1957

Mr. C. J. Eisenbacher
Deputy Director
Department of Civil Defense
P. O. Box 519
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 65

Dear Sir:

            By letter of April 23, 1957, enclosing a letter from Edward G. Watson, director of civil defense of the Walla Walla County civil defense organization, you have requested an attorney general's opinion on the following questions:

            (1) Can citizens or subjects of foreign nations be regularly employed by or associated with a civil defense organization established under chapter 38.52 RCW?

            (2) Is it permissible under this law for members of the Seventh Day Adventist religious denomination, desiring to enroll as civil defense volunteers, to attach the following statement to their personnel records:

            "I am a Seventh Day Adventist and as such I keep the seventh day, Saturday, from sunset Friday, to sunset Saturday.  I am  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] willing to minister to the suffering and dying but I cannot engage in ordinary activity on the Sabbath day, nor do I bear arms"?

            We answer both questions in the affirmative and will consider them in the order asked.


            (1) Chapter 38.52 RCW contains no language which, in our opinion, either expressly or impliedly restricts employment of civil defense workers and enrollment of volunteers to persons who are United States citizens.

            Similarly, we find no impediment in the Federal Civil Defense Act (Title 50, App. U.S.C.A., § 2213) to the utilization of foreign nationals in any state or local civil defense organization.

            It is to be emphasized, however, that under RCW 38.52.130 citizens and subjects of foreign countries, as well as United States citizens, are required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.  This section provides in part as follows:

            ". . . Each person who is appointed to serve in an organization for civil defense shall, before entering upon his duties, take an oath, in writing, before a person authorized to administer oaths in this state, which oath shall be substantially as follows:

            "'I,       , do solemnly swear (or affirm) thatI will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Washington, against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

            "'And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any political party or organization that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state by force or violence; and that during such time as I am a member of the (name of civil defense organization), I will not advocate nor become a member of any political party or organization  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state by force or violence.'"  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Title 50, App. U.S.C.A., § 2255 (b), contains an almost identical provision.

            This office does not express an opinion as to the effect of such an oath upon the citizenship of a foreign national.  We only point out that under the laws of the United States (8 U.S.C.A. § 1481) "a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof."  Alien applicants for positions with the civil defense organization should be advised of the possible risk involved in taking an oath of allegiance to the United States and should determine what, if any, penalty the laws of their country provide.  In a letter dated June 19, 1953, from the office of the Federal Civil Defense Administration to Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, a copy of which was enclosed with your request for an opinion, it was stated that certain civil defense legislation was pending in Congress which would eliminate the necessity of foreign nationals swearing allegiance to the United States.  So far as we have determined, this contemplated amendment to the law relating to oaths of allegiance by civil defense workers has not been enacted.

            In any event, no change has been made in RCW 38.52.130, quoted in part above.  This state law, being more restrictive than the proposed federal amendment, would, until itself amended, control as to the form of oath.

            (2) Referring now to the question regarding volunteer work with the civil defense organization by Seventh Day Adventists, it is our opinion that so long as no oath or affirmation is made which qualifies or limits the oath required by the statute quoted in part above, there can be no objection to the attachment to civil defense personnel records of any statement which the worker wishes to make.  The proposed statement to be made by Seventh Day Adventists does not, we believe, in any way qualify the statutory oath.  Neither the fact of refusal to "engage in ordinary activity" from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, nor  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] the fact that Seventh Day Adventists refuse to bear arms, reflects upon their allegiance to the constitution of the United States or the State of Washington.  SeeGirouard v. U. S., 66 S. Ct. 826, 328 U.S. 61.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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