Bither Claims Debunked: Adopted in Indonesia

Indonesia, Land of Birther Memes


Neighborhood kidsPresident Obama spent 4 years of his childhood living in Indonesia, from October 1967 through October 1971.  He moved there with his mother, after her new husband, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student who had come to Hawaii to study, returned to his home country.

There's no evidence President Obama was ever formally adopted by his stepfather. Indonesia didn't allow children of his age to be adopted. Indonesia also didn't allow adoption if it would create a dual-citizenship.

Even if there was any legal way for Obama to be adopted in Indonesia, he would not have lost his US citizenship. Children can't relinquish their US citizenship without proving to a US consulate/embassy that they understand the consequences of their decision, something no 6-year-old can do. Parents can’t relinquish the US citizenship of their children either.  Obama was and still is a natural born citizen of the United States of America.  


Claim: There's evidence Obama was adopted in Indonesia.

The only "evidence" is a handwritten school registration page from the Santo Fransiskus Assisi (Saint Francis of Assisi) Catholic School in Jakarta, Indonesia, that refers to Obama as “Barack Soetoro.”  However, according to school officials at the Assisi School, it was customary for students to be enrolled with their father's last name and religion.


Claim: Obama's mother lost her US citizenship when she married an Indonesian.

FALSE: Stanley Ann Dunham Obama married Lolo Soetoro in Hawaii, after divorcing Barack Obama Sr. She did not automatically lose her US citizenship when she married Soetoro, an Indonesian national. Under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, Title III, Chapter 3, Mrs. Soetoro would have had to actively declare allegiance and naturalize as an Indonesian in order to lose her US citizenship. According to documents released in July 2010 under a Freedom of Information Act request, Mrs. Soetoro never naturalized in another country. The documents showed that she had held and renewed US passports since 1965 until 1986. Therefore, this claim is false. 


Claim: Obama lost his citizenship when his mother married an Indonesian. 

FALSE: Minors could not lose their US citizenship under the law in effect in at the time, and parents could not relinquish the natural born citizenship of their minor children. Under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, Title III, Chapter 3

"...nationality shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person is under the age of twenty-one years, or as the result of naturalization obtained on behalf of a person under twenty-one years of age by a parent, guardian, or duly authorized agent, unless such person shall fail to enter the United States to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-fifth birthday: ...."

Since Obama returned to the United States in 1971 at age 10 and has permanently resided in the US since then, he never lost his natural born citizenship under this Act. Even if his mother HAD renounced her citizenship, Obama would not have lost his natural born citizenship under the Act. He maintained his birthright citizenship. Therefore, this claim is false. 


Claim: Obama could have been adopted in Indonesia.

FALSE: During the time Obama and his family lived in Indonesia that country didn't allow allow adoptions of children who were Obama’s age.  

Law No. 62 of 1958, Law on the Citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia describes the laws for adopting children but none of them applied to Obama. To be eligible for adoption, children had to be under the age of five years old. Obama was 6 when he moved to Indonesia and thus ineligible.

Since Lolo Soetoro was a Muslim, any adoption would have been under Islamic law. Islamic adoptions are unlike US adoptions because the child doesn't take the name of the family and is still considered part of the birth family.  The relationship is considered more like a foster-child than a biological child. Had Obama been legally adopted by Lolo Soetoro, his name would have remained Obama. For more on this, see The Indonesian Adoption "Barry Soetoro" Myth

Therefore, this claim is false. 

For an in-depth discussion of the legal aspects of Indonesian adoption, see The Indonesian Citizenship Myth Part I and Part II on Badfiction,  and Did Obama Become an Indonesian Citizen when His Mother, Ann Durham, Married Lolo Soetoro, and Moved to Indonesia? on What's Your Evidence?   


Claim: Foreign students couldn’t attend schools in Indonesia in the 1960s. 

FALSE. Both citizens and foreigners over eight years old were required to attend schools if they were available. In addition, Indonesians were banned from alien schools, but foreigners were not banned from Indonesian schools.  

Although TheFogbow.com researchers have searched extensively, we have never found any evidence to show that an American citizen child would be unable to attend an Indonesian government school. Rather, all information located to date indicates that non-Indonesian students were able to attend such schools. 

Obama in IndonesiaBarack Obama was living in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from late 1967-1971

Friends of TheFogbow.com have found an excellent article on the history and state of Indonesian public schools in 1960 from The Elementary School Journal. (Available for purchase at the link. Used under the Fair Use Doctrine as quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work.) 

"Indonesian Elementary Education: Two Decades of Change," by R. Murray Thomas and Winarno Surachmad. The Elementary School Journal, published by The University of Chicago PressVol. 63, No.1 (Oct., 1962): pp 6-14. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/999165

Indonesia was a Dutch colony known as the Dutch East Indies from 1800 until the World War II, when the Japanese Empire occupied the islands. During that era, the Dutch allowed several types of elementary schools, depending on the race and social class of the student. 

In 1940, Indonesia had 2.021 million pupils in about 18,000 elementary schools. Indonesia had a population of about 75 million: this was a very small proportion of the eligible children. This total also included  Dutch first-class schools (for children of the colonizers and other Europeans), Dutch second-class schools (children of mixed Dutch-Indonesian birth, wealthy westernized Chinese, and Indonesians of high birth or social class.), Dutch-Native schools (children of the privileged Indonesian social classes), Dutch-Chinese schools (children of the privileged Chinese social classes), and Private Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic schools. Most of the rest were native Indonesians attending small 3-year village schools. 

In March 1942, the Japanese Empire conquered the colony. The occupation lasted from March 1942 until the Japanese Empire surrendered in September 1945.  The Japanese "abolished all western-culture schools, eliminated the Dutch language as a medium of instruction and as a subject, and established one type of school for all classes of society.” (Thomas, page 11)

After having its educational system highly restricted and controlled by outsiders in the Colonial Age and the Japanese Occupation, the new Indonesian Government was determined to take control itself.  The Five Principles known as the Pancasila formed the blueprint of the new state. “... the Indonesian leaders wrote a constitution that committed their revolutionary government to provide every citizen a chance for an education through a national system of schooling." (Thomas, page 8)

The Indonesia Constitution of 1945 states that:

  1. Every citizen has the right to receive education.  
  2. Every citizen has the obligation to undertake basic education, and the government has the obligation to fund this.  
  3. The government shall manage and organise one system of national education, which shall increase the level of spiritual belief, devoutness and moral character in the context of developing the life of the nation and shall be regulated by law.  

"This official commitment was furthered specified in 1950 when, after achieving fully recognized independence, the Indonesian leaders passed the basic education law. [] The law states that all children who have reached the age of six are entitled to go to school and all who have reached the age of eight are compelled to go. The school to which the law refers is the newly standardized six-year elementary school, an institution open to all, free of charge.” (Thomas, page 8, emphasis added) Note:  the schools were open to all – not just all Indonesian citizens.

By 1960, there were 8 million pupils in almost 30,000 schools. Even so, an estimated 50-60 percent of the school-age population were not in elementary school. Ramping up a nation-wide educational system was challenged by lack of teachers, buildings, books, and money. “Compulsory education has been achieved in several small districts in central and eastern Java. But the goal set by the government in 1951 to achieve universal elementary schooling by 1961 was not reached.” (Thomas, page 9)

Another source describes a 1955 law implemented in 1963. "The New Order regime consequently adopted policies to eliminate the distinctions marking Chinese Indonesians from other Indonesian citizens. It banned alien schools and urged all Chinese (citizens and non-citizens) to attend Indonesian national schools." -- "Nationalism and ethnic conflict in Indonesia" By Jacques Bertrand (emphasis added). (Google Books Link) 

See also: The Indonesian Citizenship Myth - Part 2 and The Indonesian Citizenship Myth - Part 3 (Bad Fiction)  


Claim: His real name Barry Soetoro.

Barry Soetoro isn't his legal name. In the modern world of fractured families, kids can go by different names during their lives. There is some evidence that he was called Barry Soetoro while in Indonesia.  Soetoro was his stepfather for a while, and it was easier for the family to all have the same name.  Informally changing a last name to that of a step-father has always been pretty common.

Other presidents have gone by other names in their youths. Leslie Lynch King, Jr (Gerald Ford) and William Jefferson Blythe III (Bill Clinton) both changed their names legally as adults but went by other names in their childhoods.


Claim: Barry Soretoro never legally changed his name to Barack Obama.

Since Obama never legally changed his name to Barry Soetoro, there was no need to legally change it back to Barack Obama. When he returned to Hawaii at age 11, he went to school as Barry Obama. Barry is a nickname.  

"Contemporary public documents, such as the 1979-80 freshman 'Lookbook' published at the beginning of President Obama's first year at Occidental, list him as Barack Obama. All of the Occidental alumni I have spoken to from that era (1979-81) who knew him, knew him as Barry Obama....To date, all of the litigation filed regarding President Obama's student records at Occidental has been rejected by the courts. Occidental has not released his transcripts or his student file." Occidental College Director of Communications Jim Tranquada. 


Claim: Obama never took the Loyalty oath which restored his citizenship. 

He didn’t need to take any loyalty oath because his citizenship was never lost. 

There's no evidence that Obama was ever adopted by his step-father.  Under US law, he could not have lost his citizenship even if he had been adopted by his step-father.  No loss of US citizenship, no need for an oath to reinstate what was never lost. 

Again, citizenship status does NOT rest on whether he was adopted. Even if Indonesian law had permitted it – AND even if under Indonesian law, he’d then be an Indonesian citizen – that would have ZERO affect on his US citizenship under US law.


Claim: Barack Obama and/or his mother were Indonesian citizens.

FALSE: According to both US and Indonesian law and passport records obtained via a Freedom of Information Act Request, neither Barack Obama nor Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro could have naturalized as Indonesian citizens. Below, we have listed the relevent US and Indonesian laws, with commentary.

Law No. 62 of 1958, Law on the Citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia

Date of entry into force: 1 August 1958

Article 7. (1) A foreign woman married to a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, acquires the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia, if and when she makes a statement as to that effect within 1 year after contracting said marriage, except in case when she acquires the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia she possesses still another nationality, in which case the statement may not be made.

This cannot apply to Barack Obama's situation, as we know, based on the recently-released Passport applications, that Stanley maintained her “other nationality.” To state it another way, even if one assumes (no evidence of such, but... ) that she actually “made the statement” required to become a citizen of Indonesia within one year of her marriage, it would not have the effect of making her a citizen because the exception applies, i.e., she still held her U.S. citizenship.

(2) With the exception as mentioned in para 1 the foreign woman who marries a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia also acquires the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia one year after the marriage has been contracted, if within that one year her husband does not make a statement as to release his citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia. Said statement may only be made and only results in the loss of the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia if by such a loss the husband does not become stateless.

Here again, this cannot apply because the same exception set forth in paragraph (1) applies here. Based on Lolo Soetoro’s immigration records, he did not release his Indonesian citizenship.

However, because Stanley still possessed and maintained U.S. citizenship (based on the recently-released records) she could not become an Indonesian citizen by marrying Lolo, even though he did not make any statement releasing his Indonesian citizenship.

(3) If one of the statements mentioned in para 1 and 2 have been made, the alternative statement may not be made.

This paragraph is not relevant to this discussion, but what this means is that the woman can not make the statement to become an Indonesian citizen IF the husband has made a statement releasing his Indonesian citizenship.

(4) The statements mentioned above shall be made to the Pengadilan Negeri or the Representation of the Republic of Indonesia at the residence of the person making such a Article 13.

There is no evidence that any such statement was made. While some may (and do) state that’s because of some grand conspiracy to hide all records, we know that’s not true from the recently-released Passport records which show that Stanley never gave up her citizenship.

(1) Children who have not reached the age of 18 and are not married yet, who have a legal family relationship with their father before said father has acquired the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia also acquire the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia, after they reside and are in Indonesia. The statement as to their residence and being in Indonesia is not valid for children who because their father acquires the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia becomes stateless.

Obviously, this paragraph can not apply because Stanley and Lolo were not married before Lolo became an Indonesian citizen.

(2) The citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia acquired by a mother also applies to her children who have no legal family relationship with the father, who have not reached the age of 18 and are not married yet after they have resided and are in Indonesia. ...

1. This cannot apply because, as has been shown above, Stanley was disqualified from becoming an Indonesian citizen because she still held U.S. citizenship (supported by the Passport records recently obtained).

2. This cannot apply because, to the extent that Stanley “could” have obtained Indonesian citizenship by virtue of marriage to Lolo, then Obama would have a “legal family relationship” with the father, as Lolo would be his legal stepfather.

3. Even IF – IF Stanley had become and Indonesian citizen because she lied about/falsified/failed to disclose her U.S. citizenship, citizenship obtained by fraud would be reversed (as has happened countless times, both in the U.S. and elsewhere).

4. Even IF – IF Stanley had become an Indonesian citizen because, contrary to U.S. records she did SOMEHOW release her U.S. citizenship, and even IF – IF, under Indonesian law, a child has no “legal family relationship” with his stepfather, and, as such, under the provision has no “legal family relationship” with his stepfather, and, as such, under the provision above, Obama would be an Indonesian citizen - (continue to read below) – such “law” would have NO effect under U.S. Law.

US Code CHAPTER 3 – LOSS OF NATIONALITY. LOSS OF NATIONALITY BY NATIVE-BORN OR NATURALIZED CITIZEN

SEC. 349. (a) From and after the effective date of this Act a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by -

(1) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application, upon an application filed in his behalf by a parent, guardian, or duly authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of such person: Provided, That nationality shall not be lost by any person under this section as the result of the naturalization of a parent or parents while such person is under the age of twenty-one years, or as the result of a naturalization obtained on behalf of a person under twenty-one years of age by a parent, guardian, or duly authorized agent, unless such person shall fail to enter the United States to establish a permanent residence prior to his twenty-fifth birthday;

Note: And we know factually that Obama returned long before his 25th birthday and there is nothing else required under the circumstances of the provision above.

Application of treaties; exceptions

US Code: [8 U.S.C. 1489] Nothing in this title shall be applied in contravention of the provisions of any treaty or convention to which the United States is a party and which has been ratified by the Senate before December 25, 1952: Provided, however, That no woman who was a national of the United States shall be deemed to have lost her nationality solely by reason of her marriage to an alien on or after September 22, 1922, or to an alien racially ineligible to citizenship on or after March 3, 1931, or, in the case of a woman who was a United States citizen at birth, through residence abroad following such marriage, notwithstanding the provisions of any existing treaty or convention.

Stanley didn't automatically lose her US citizenship upon her marriage to a foreign national. 

Law No. 62 of 1958, Law on the Citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia

Article 13. (2) The citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia acquired by a mother also applies to her children who have no legal family relationship with the father, who have not reached the age of 18 and are not married yet after they have resided and are in Indonesia. If said citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia is acquired with the naturalization by a mother who has become a widow because of the decease of her husband, the children who have a legal family relationship with said husband, who have not reached the age of 18 and are not married yet also acquire the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia after they reside and are in Indonesia.

This provision is obviously not relevant to the discussion here as Stanley did not become a widow during the marriage to Lolo.

Statements as to their residence and being in Indonesia are not valid for children who because their mother has acquired the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia become stateless.

Also not relevant, as even IF – IF Stanley had become an Indonesian citizen, Obama would still be a U.S. citizen under U.S. law and, as such, would not have become “stateless.”

Article 14. (1) If the children as mentioned in article 2 and article 13 reach the age of 21, they loose [sic] the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia again, if and when they make a statement as to that effect. Said statement shall be made within 1 year after the children have reached the age of 21 to the Pengadilan Negeri of Representation of the Republic of Indonesia at their residence.

Also not relevant, as Obama never became, nor could he have become an Indonesian citizen under the law set out above, so there would have been no need to do the above.

(2) The provision of para 1 is not applicable if said children become stateless with the loss of the citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia.

Obama would not have become “stateless” as he still maintained his U.S. citizenship.

Therefore this claim is FALSE -- neither Barack Obama (or Barry Soetoro) or his mother could have been Indonesian citizens.