The Ugly History of Dual-Loyalty Charges

Ilhan Omar

State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 Legislature convened Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in St. Paul, Minn. Omar is the nation’s first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Source: The Atlantic


When Representative Ilhan Omar recently complained about “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” many noted accurately that she had deployed a trope—dual loyalty—that had been used against Jews for years.

But this accusation has a broader history in the United States, having been used against several religious minorities—including Muslims like Omar. Indeed, many battles over religious freedom have revolved around dual-loyalty claims.

In the 19th century, many attacks on Catholics stressed that these immigrants were pawns of a foreign power. In the 1830s, Samuel Morse—then a prominent painter and later the inventor of the telegraph—urged Americans to build “walls” and “gates” to keep out Catholic immigrants, who would always be loyal to Rome. Because these Catholic immigrants were decrepit—“halt, and blind, and naked”—they were easy to control. With their “darkened intellects,” they “obey their priests as demigods.” The Vatican could deploy these “senseless machines” to seize power in America.

When Al Smith, a Catholic, ran for president in 1928, he faced constant charges that he was the puppet of Rome. A picture of the recently built Holland Tunnel in New York City was used to suggest that he would extend it all the way from America to the Vatican. One editorial cartoon depicted him as a busboy serving liquor to bishops.

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1 reply

  1. talk. talk. talk. but there is nothing like the dual nationals with Israel. When a group of senators ‘inspected’ our refugee project in Amman and Damascus, there were several senators who happened to all be named ‘David’. They openly discussed ‘who Is going to Jerusalem after this trip (to report) Out of the six two went on to Jerusalem.

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