This article was originally published on Feb. 10, 2012.
Barack Obama does not have the legal right to be President of the United States.
Such is the claim of Thomas Barchfeld, a resident from Glen Elm Drive and a member of the Whitehall Borough Republican Committee. And Barchfeld says that he has proof.
The 56-year-old former Democrat—he switched parties in 2011—has been going to the homes of registered Republicans in Whitehall (a Pittsburgh suburb) with a letter that he has written to Pennsylvania Secretary Carol Aichele claiming that Obama's natural-born citizenry is in serious question.
In fact, to Barchfeld, there is no doubt.
While Barchfeld does not directly question Obama's birthplace—the president was born in Hawaii in 1961—he instead focuses on Obama's parents. That's parents with an "s," and according to Barchfeld, that's extremely important.
Barchfeld points out that the U.S. Constitution requires the country's presidents to be "natural born citizens" (or citizens at the time of the adoption of the constitution) but that the document does not detail exactly what that means. While common understanding has held that those born in the United States qualify to be president, Barchfeld objects, pointing to an 1875 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Minor v. Happersett that has never been overturned in which the court ruled that a natural-born citizen can only be someone born in the United States to citizen parents.
As text from the Minor v. Happersett decision reads, "The Constitution does not in words say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners."
Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was born in Kansas, but his father, Barack Obama Sr., who was born in Kenya, was not a U.S. citizen at the time of his son's birth and never became one.
"The founding fathers never defined the term 'natural born citizen,'" Barchfeld argues, which he then says allows only for court precedent—such as the Minor v. Happersett case—to be used when determining the lawfulness of Obama's presidency.
"The Supreme Court defines it as both parents being U.S. citizens," Barchfeld says.
Barchfeld has been taking his letter around to residents in Whitehall's Third Precinct (the area, roughly, including Par and Southvue drives, among others) in hopes that Obama does not appear on Pennsylvania's presidential ballot in 2012. The letter is designed for each resident to sign his or her name on it and send it to Aichele.
Barchfeld is doing this as a private citizen, he says, not as a representative of the Whitehall Republican Committee.
A similar attempt to remove Obama's name from the presidential ballot in Georgia at a hearing in that state on Jan. 26 can be viewed on YouTube.
Neither the president nor his Georgia attorney, Michael Jablonski, showed for that Georgia hearing, but Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi, of the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings, still ruled that Obama's name should be eligible for Georgia's ballot.
"He (Obama) became a citizen at birth," Malihi wrote in his decision on Feb. 3, "and is a natural born citizen."
That hasn't stopped Barchfeld, who says that he voted conservatively even when he was a Democrat, from trying in Pennsylvania.
"I don't like his policies," Barchfeld said of Obama, but he maintained that his personal feelings aren't as important as upholding the law. "It is a constitutional issue."
"It doesn't matter," Ledewitz said. "Since the 1870s, we've treated people born here as citizens ... That's been the understanding."
Ledewitz was asked if Barchfeld's argument over the "natural born citizens" aspect holds any water.
"No," Ledewitz said. "And I'm not speaking about whether he's a good president or a bad president or anything else. It's just accepted law that people born in the United States are natural-born citizens. That's just been the understanding for a long time.
"It has nothing to do with Obama you understand. If you were born here, you're a natural-born citizen."
Barchfeld takes issue with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney running for the presidency, as well, since Romney's father, George Romney, was born in Mexico. (George Romney's parents, however, were both U.S. citizens. In fact, George ran for the U.S. presidency in 1968.)
Nevertheless, Barchfeld has not taken action on his concerns over Mitt Romney's candidacy as he has with Obama's.
The last paragraph of Barchfeld's letter (available in the media gallery near the top of this page) sums up his thoughts on Obama's candidacy in Pennsylvania.
"I am saddened that it seems very possible that the largest hoax in American history has been perpetrated on the people of America, undoubtedly this is just the tip of the iceberg in a very sordid tale. I am just a citizen of this State, and I only needed mere hours to find this information which is readily available. Now I call on each and every member of both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature as well as the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth to uphold the Constitution that you have sworn to protect."
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