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The Controversy Surrounding Obama's Birth

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Critics File Suit Claiming He’s Constitutionally Ineligible to Be President

As President-elect Barack Obama, his family, staff and supporters prepare for his January move into the White House, a growing number of critics are voicing support for a campaign which is underway and, if successful, will prevent him from taking office. Should that happen, it would also dash the risen hopes of millions of people around the world who were energized by Obama’s candidacy and believe him able to bring about “change you can believe in.”

For months now, “conservative” bloggers and commentators, along with some Democratic supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton, have attempted to focus attention on Obama’s birth, particularly the Hawaiian birth certificate posted on his website; an image meant to disprove all allegations about his birth not taking place in the United States.

The certificate, however, has a number which has been redacted, and contains no signatures or identification of the birth doctor – things which lead Obama’s critics into more questioning since one of three constitutional requirements for the presidency is that a candidate must be a “natural born citizen. The other two requirements are that an individual must be at least 35 years-old and have been a U.S. resident for 14 years. Obama meets the latter two qualifications but it is the “natural born citizen” clause which critics say disqualify him. The constitution does not further define the phrase and therefore, some feel a constitutional crisis is ahead if Obama is allowed to assume the office of president.

“Does the constitution matter?” asks a full page ad which ran in the Nov. 17 Washington Times National Weekly edition; a newspaper popular with politicians in Washington, D.C. and readers nationwide. Philip Berg, a Pennsylvania attorney and former attorney general, placed the ad and months ago was one of the first to take legal action to demand Obama present proof that he is a U.S. citizen. The Clinton supporter’s activities and efforts are being tracked on his website,, where a recent news release states that his recent filing to the U.S. Supreme Court is in process and a deadline date of Dec. 1 has been given to Obama and his team to respond to the Court.

In his ad, Berg presents four exhibits on which he bases his case: (1) claims that Obama’s paternal Kenyan grandmother is on record as saying she was present when the president-elect was born in that African country; (2) an original birth certificate has never been produced for review and “experts” have called the online image a “forgery”; (3) Obama may still hold Indonesian citizenship since, as a child, he attended school in that country where laws would not allow non-citizen children to attend and also forbade dual citizenship; (4) Obama’s mother was too young to meet the residency requirements of U.S. law which would have enabled her to declare her son a “natural born citizen.”

In another case, Dr. Alan Keyes – who was the American Independent Party’s (AIP) candidate for president – has also filed a suit in California along with Dr. Wiley Drake, his vice presidential pick, and Markham Robinson, an AIP representative. They filed against the California Secretary of State (SOS), that state’s long list of electoral college members, and Obama.

Electoral college members are important because it is they, despite the popular vote cast on Nov. 4, who decide and certify who will be the next president of the country. Their decision is set to be made on Dec. 15 and will be certified by each state’s SOS office. The lawsuit outlines that candidates for president have, in the past, only submitted written notice that they were citizens but “this practice represents a much lower standard than that demanded when requesting a drivers license.” Keyes and company then go on to request a court order barring the SOS from certifying California’s electoral vote until such time as Obama has produced proof that he is a natural-born citizen and not one of Kenya, Indonesia or England.

“In case Senator Obama cannot present proper documentation, he cannot be elected President and SOS has a duty to bar the casting of votes by California electors in support of his candidacy,” the document continues, adding that more than a dozen other legal actions have been filed across the country. “Should Senator Obama be discovered, after he takes office, to be ineligible for the Office of President, and, thereby, his election declared void, Petitioners, as well as other Americans, will suffer irreparable harm in that an usurper [sic] will be sitting as President, and none of the treaties, laws or executive orders signed by him will be valid or legal.”

Since the issue would be easily laid to rest with the showing of Obama’s original birth certificate, some are asking why the former Illinois senator has not produced it and take his refusal to mean he “has something to hide.” Meanwhile, as with the many other controversies that came Obama’s way during his campaign – and which he successfully overcame - he appears to be handling this one in the same manner. It remains to be seen what Dec. 1 will bring when his response is due to the Supreme Court but his Fight the Smears website still proclaims the same message that it has for months. “Smears claiming Barack Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate aren’t actually about that piece of paper – they’re about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen,” the site reads. “Truth is, [he] was born in the state of Hawaii in 1961, a native of the United States.”

Interestingly, Obama’s rival, Senator John McCain, also faced similar charges and lawsuits about his birth which occurred in the Panama Canal Zone where his father was on assignment for the U.S. Military in 1936. The matter is of no consequence now other than to highlight that the Constitution may be in need of Congressional clarification and reform when it comes to the presidential “natural born citizen” qualification and who can, or cannot, become president of the country.


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Adeeba Folami is an award winning freelance journalist from Denver, Colorado. Her articles have appeared in the Denver Weekly News, African American Voice, Afro American Newspapers, Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta Voice, Birmingham Times, Dallas (more...)
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