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1952 immigration law did not ban Muslims from holding public office

November 27, 2018 GMT

CLAIM: The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 bans Muslims from holding office in the United States. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The McCarran-Walter Act did not ban specific religious groups from public office; it upheld a quota system limiting immigration by country.  

THE FACTS:  The erroneous claim about the act circulated widely following the election this month of two women who are Muslims to the U.S. House of Representatives:  Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan.  

The 1952 act did discriminate by race and ethnicity, but placed no religious restrictions on who could hold elected office, Hiroshi Motomura, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, and immigration expert, told The Associated Press. The act upheld the race-based “national origins quota system” from the 1920s, which regulated how many immigrants could enter the U.S. from each country.


Nancy Morawetz, a clinical law professor at New York University who focuses on immigration and judicial review, said the act limited immigration “by nationality and not religion.” She noted that Muslims, “like all Americans, are not limited by religion in their ability to hold office.” 

 In addition, Article VI of the Constitution states: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” meaning that a person can hold office no matter their faith. 

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: 


The Associated Press reviewed this story after it was surfaced to third-party fact checkers as part of an initiative with Facebook to assess the accuracy of news content.