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Obama eligibility: reliability



The Obama birth certificate. Why is this still accepted as valid? The Birther movement still matters, for the precedent.

How reliable is a Hawaii birth certificate? How reliable are birth announcements in Hawaii newspapers? Recent events cast doubt on both, and put the Obama eligibility question back in play.

Reliability of birth certificates

A birth certificate, from a State Department of Health, has always set the standard for reliably identifying someone. The US Passport Office, and Divisions of Motor Vehicles across the land, ask for birth certificates for a reason. They assume that someone directly attests that the person whose name appears on a birth certificate was born, and when, and where. That is what a certificate is. When you certify something, you testify, as surely as if you raise your right hand and say,

I solemnly swear that anything I may say in any business before a court of law or notary public, be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Furthermore, everyone assumes that no State issues birth certificates for anyone not born in that State.

Those who decry the Obama eligibility question, and those who raise it, think they have the last word. Barack H. Obama showed his birth certificate last year. Anyone who doesn’t accept that, might as well believe that the Earth is flat. If he was not born in Hawaii, he would not have a Hawaii birth certificate. He has a Hawaii birth certificate. Therefore he was born in Hawaii. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Not so fast!


Hawaii birth certificates not for Hawaiian-born babies only

The Obama birth certificate: probable casualty in the Obama eligibility battle

Obama's long-form birth certificate, as released by the White House. A photocopy of an image in a book, with green safety-paper texture added after-the-fact.

Last week, Steven Carter, of Philadelphia, PA, solved a mystery that had troubled him since he was a boy. In fact, he is not Steve Carter, but Marx Panama Barns. In 1977, his mother ran away from her husband and took him with her. Eventually she traveled to Hawaii. The details are still sketchy, but somehow someone in authority committed Barnes/Carter’s mother for psychiatric treatment and sent the infant Barnes/Carter to an orphanage. The mother later left the hospital, and no one has seen her since.

What has this to do with Obama eligibility? Just this: no one issued a birth certificate for him until a year after his supposed birthday. That birth certificate came from Hawaii. It listed Barnes/Carter as “half native Hawaiian.” But the adult now calling himself Steve Carter has no discernible “native Hawaiian” features.

More to the point: Marx Panama Barnes was not born in Hawaii. He was born in California.

CBS-TV ran a human-interest special on Barnes/Carter. They focused only on his solving his own child-snatching. But they missed a vital point: how did he get a Hawaii birth certificate if he was not born in Hawaii?

Nor is this the first time that Hawaii has given a birth certificate to someone not born on those islands. Mike Zullo is the head of the Cold Case Posse of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. He and his team have looked into the Obama eligibility question almost since the White House released what they said was Obama’s birth certificate. Zullo did not concentrate only on the flaws in the Obama birth certificate document. He asked himself whether the Hawaii Department of Health might give someone a birth certificate even if that someone was not born in Hawaii.

Zullo told interviewer Carl Gallups that the Hawaii Department of Health has done just that several times. He also gave the lie to another anti-Obama eligibility canard. Birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers at the time relied only on family telephone calls. And no one ever checked those.


Hawaii is notorious for having satellite birth registry offices. [There, people] can literally go in and register another [person] born in a foreign country—a foreign birth—and register that birth in Hawaii and get a Certificate of Live Birth.

That last is the official title of the Obama birth certificate document. Zullo further told Gallups that his team knew of persons born in California, and adopted in Hawaii, who had Hawaii Certificates of Live Birth. Furthermore, these certificates were in the same registry as persons truly born in Hawaii.

Recall that Marx Panama Barnes/Steve Carter was also born in California and adopted in Hawaii.

What this means for Obama eligibility

The Obama eligibility question often “poisons the well.” Former Speaker of the Arizona House Kirk Adams told Obama eligibility activist Tom Ballantyne that he was afraid even to discuss it. Specifically, he feared the “constitutional crisis” that an Obama eligibility investigation would create. (Ballantyne told Drew Zahn of WND that we already have a constitutional crisis over the Obama eligibility issue.)

Adams might really fear having people laugh at him. Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) knew that laughter is the most effective weapon in politics. But a Hawaii birth certificate is not reliable evidence of Hawaiian birth, even under ordinary circumstances. The Barnes/Carter case is the prize example. Mike Zullo and his fellow investigators know of others. So the Obama eligibility question is not a laughing matter anymore.


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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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I can’t find anything entirely official, but all indications are that Barnes was living in Hawaii at the time he went missing. See, for example:

link to
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If that’s accurate (and I can’t find anything to suggest it isn’t), then there is no reason to assume he wasn’t born in Hawaii and even less reason to assume he was born in California.

Moreover, Hawaii law specifically covers the situation described here and will only issue a birth certificate after the fact if the person was born in Hawaii and “subject to any evidentiary requirements that the department adopts by rule to substantiate the alleged facts of birth.”

link to
HRS § 338-15


I have no idea. As a guess, I’d say that he wasn’t born in a hospital and his mother, who doesn’t appear to have been entirely stable, never bothered to file the right paperwork / tell the right people / do whatever was necessary to have a birth certificate issued. Later, when he showed up at the orphanage, someone discovered the oversight and remedied it.

Regardless, Hawaiian law requires that birth certificates only be issued to people born in Hawaii. You’ve presented Barnes’ story as evidence that this law is not always followed. I don’t think that’s a very plausible reading of the story. I think, given that (a) Barnes went missing in Hawaii, (b) he was only six month old at the time, and (c) both of his parents lived in Hawaii at the time, it is far more likely that Barnes was born in Hawaii and for whatever reason did not immediately receive a birth certificate.


Yes, but you have to remember that even though it is very likely Barnes was born in Hawaii, you can’t deny the birthers their conspiracy theory.

After all, it’s the only thing they have going for their crusade – hints and allegations and conspiracies. Not a single presented “fact” has stood up in court, not a single member of Congress has raised the issue, not a single judicial body is investigating (apart from the laughable efforts of Sheriff Joe, who keeps promising more revelations any day now… yup, any… day… now).

All that’s happening is a bunch of lily-white Americans are howling about the black man in the White House.

Terry, you still haven’t said which theory you subscribe to – either Obama’s certificate is fake, in which case the whole natural born citizen thing doesn’t count; or it’s real and then you can harp on about him not being (in your mind) a natural born citizen.

But you can’t have both.


JT, I’ve read enough on this site to see that you and Terry have some fundamental disagreements over a lot of issues, but I’m not sure it’s very constructive to keep fighting about the big picture stuff when it’s clear you’re never going to see eye to eye. I think it’s far more productive to tackle these issues individually, as they come up.

Terry, given the additional info I dug up, do you still think that “[r]ecent events cast doubt on” the reliability of a Hawaiian birth certificate? Also, what is the evidence that casts doubt on the reliability of birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers? They don’t really seem to enter the picture with this story, though maybe I missed it.


But the state can only issue a birth certificate if it knows that a baby has been born. If Barnes’ mother gave birth somewhere other than a hospital, it would be up to her to let the state know that they need to issue a birth certificate. Given the kid’s name (Marx Panama?) and his mother’s later mental health issues, it seems entirely plausible to me that she neglected to take the necessary steps.

Also,I don’t think the dichotomy you’ve presented is accurate. Our choices are between (a) DOH inappropriately issued a birth certificate to a noncitizen, (b) DOH inappropriately issued a birth certificate to someone who already had one, and (c) DOH appropriately issued a birth certificate to a boy born in Hawaii who, for some reason, had not been issued a certificate at birth.

I think there is good evidence to suggest that (a) is unlikely, as I’ve mentioned above. I don’t see any evidence to suggest that (b) is true and this seems to be the first time it’s been suggested. As I’ve already mentioned, I think (c) is entirely plausible.

We can agree to disagree on what seems more likely, but it’d be nice if you would at least acknowledge the possibility that Hawaii acted entirely as it should have and this is simply a happy story of a man learning of his history, with no sinister lessons to be learned.

Nathaniel Roubideaux

What does this have to do with President Obama?


What else would you have us use?


Sorry, I might have been too terse. After the fact quality control does us no good. If you’re right and we decide that birth certificates issued in Hawaii 30 or 40 or 50 years ago cannot be relied on to prove where someone was born, what other evidence should we look at? Or do we just say that, because of these historic irregularities no one born in Hawaii during that period can be president? Surely not, so what alternate method would you suggest to prove place of birth?

Nathaniel Roubideaux

But you’re not proving anything about President Obama here. At best you’ve got a dubious claim about some other person, that’s dubious.

[…] “Obama Eligibility: Reliability” – “….Birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers at the time relied only on family telephone calls. And no one ever checked those…..Zullo further told Gallups that his team knew of persons born in California, and adopted in Hawaii, who had Hawaii Certificates of Live Birth. Furthermore, these certificates were in the same registry as persons truly born in Hawaii. […]

[…] Reliability […]


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