Eligible to Serve? Defining “Citizenship”…

by Mike Durkin

The purpose of this note is to explore various ideas about citizenship, specifically with how it applies to Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as President of the United States.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a “birther.” I don’t believe that Obama’s birth certificate is questioned or even relevant. Many courts have determined that already. What I wish to explore is the “nature” or “manner” of citizenship. We are all aware that there are various methods available to become a citizen of this country. I will focus primarily on two of those methods

For purposes of this article, I am referring directly to the United States Constitution regarding eligibility for serving as President.

Article 1, Section II, Clause 5 states:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

First – Citizenship may be attained by virtue of being born to a mother and father, both of whom are US citizens, and with a birth taking place on United States sovereign soil. This is the most clear-cut manner of becoming a citizen, in which case one is a “natural born” citizen. Clearly, a person born under such circumstances is eligible on the basis of citizenship.

Second – Citizenship may be attained by virtue of being born on United States sovereign soil. This is the old common-law definition of citizenship. In this case, Obama, having been born in Hawaii, has citizenship. This is referred to as a “native born” citizen.

So, it seems cut and dried, doesn’t it? We know that Obama’s father was never a U.S. citizen, thus he is a native-born citizen and not a natural-born citizen. Amendment 14, section 1, also addresses the matter of citizenship. Notice that it makes no reference to  “natural born.”

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Therefore, it seems clear that the drafters of the Constitution were rather succinct in their definition. Why would they say that a President had to be a “natural born” citizen, as opposed to simply saying “a citizen” unless they felt that there was a compelling reason?

The Founders did this specifically, in my opinion, because they did NOT want a person born with perhaps divided loyalties to be able to become president. Those loyalties might be divided by, for example, a father who is not a U.S. citizen.

Which leads us to the fact that this is a matter of interpretation by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). In four cases, the Supreme Court addressed a similar issue. In each case, the court cited “The Law of Nations” as the basis for their decision, a book that was heavily relied upon by the framers of the Constitution. In that book, a “natural born” citizen is defined clearly as:

212. Citizens and natives.

The citizens are the members of the civil society: bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. . . .

Following this guidance, we can see that Barack Obama is NOT eligible to serve as President by virtue of the fact that his father is not and never WAS a U.S. citizen.

For related case history and judgments by SCOTUS please reference:



Mike Durkin is a guest contributor to The Bold Pursuit