05 September 2008

A Letter to the U.S. Department of State

(Editor's Note: This letter has been slightly edited to protect confidential information that could lead to identity theft.)

To whom it may concern:

I apologize, as this might get a bit long. 

I was born in California.  Today, I am a Primitive Catholic priest, and consider myself to be solely a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  While I am willing to follow the just laws of the country in which I reside, I am unwilling to consider myself an American... or any other nationality for that matter.  Currently, I live in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This leaves me with several problems, however, that I am unsure of how to approach. 

My most immediate problem is that I have family who reside in Canada.  Soon, I will be required to present a Passport when I travel to Canada by car.  I am concerned because I do not consider myself an American, and believe that, to bear an American passport would constitute the bearing of false witness against my God.  Heretofore, I have been able to get across the border with my driver's license and birth certificate.  When asked about my residence, I tell the border agent where I live (Indianapolis).  I need to try to figure out a way to maintain my freedom to travel, to maintain contact with my family, while, at the same time, preserving my conscience's freedom to refuse to claim citizenship in a nation-state on earth. 

My second concern is in restrictions on travel, specifically on the restriction that is placed upon me with regards to traveling to Cuba.  I don't have any personal ties to Cuba, but I have always wanted to visit there, experience their life and culture, meet other Christian believers, and see the place for myself.  I have long considered visiting Cuba, but then I found out that (in addition to the passport issue) if I did go, I would not be permitted to return to the United States for violating the Cuban Embargo.  What right does the American government have to impede my God-given right to freely travel throughout the world? 

Finally, I am curious about alternatives to being considered a United States Citizen.  As I noted earlier, I do not believe in considering myself a citizen of any nation-state, as I cannot pledge any kind of allegiance to any nation on the planet.  I have no objection to paying my taxes (though I am considering joining a group to promote an alternative to war taxes) and obeying just laws, but I cannot, in conscience, vote, serve in the military or any form of alternative service, serve on a jury, or serve in elected office.  I consider myself a resident alien in this nation, as I was never given the chance to claim citizenship for myself.  Is there any means in American law for me to 'downgrade' my status (best term I can think of) to that of a legally resident alien? 

I know that this may seem a bit, frankly, kooky... at one time I truly believed in nationalism, patriotism, and all that... but the New Testament teaches me that, while I have an obligation to pray for all civil leaders and to obey just laws, I cannot have divided loyalties.  I must be a citizen of this world, or a citizen of God's kingdom.  I choose the latter, and I seek to find a way to allow myself, in conscience, to live out this conviction. 

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter. 

Father Robert Lyons


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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