Monday, May 05, 2008

Outdated and Outrageous

From The Left Coaster, I see that my home state of California is still requiring all of its employees to sign a loyalty oath, per this report from the LA Times:
The loyalty oath was added to the state Constitution by voters in 1952 to root out communists in public jobs. Now, 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main effect is to weed out religious believers, particularly Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses.

As a Quaker from Pennsylvania and a lifelong pacifist, Gonaver objected to the California oath as an infringement of her rights of free speech and religious freedom.
Oy. I had long forgotten this bit of McCarthy-era paranoia in the state constitution. I suppose I must have had to sign it myself, back when I was teaching classes while in college, but I must not have taken it all that seriously. And of course, those were different times, at the tail end of the Cold War.

Looks like it's time to agitate for an amendment. Although there has apparently been a move in that direction before, to no effect.

The good news is that the more onerous provisions of the original oath have apparently been removed. Ultimately, I don't really have an issue with having people affirm that they will uphold and defend the constitution, but not allowing personal variations is just wrong, as long as they don't negate the meaning of the agreement.
After a version of the oath was added to the state Constitution, courts eventually struck down its harshest elements but let stand the requirement of defending the constitutions. In one court test, personal statements accompanying the oath were deemed constitutional as long as they did not nullify the meaning of the oath.

Now, the University of California advises new employees who balk at signing the pledge that they can submit an addendum, as long as it does not negate the oath.
But I still think it's time to clear this up. Such regulation of beliefs is inherently unfair. As one dissenter put it,
"The way it's laid out, a noncitizen member of Al Qaeda could work for the university, but not a citizen Quaker," she said.
I'm sure that's what they had in mind when they created this mess.


Laura E. Goodin said...

When I drafted Mud and Glass last year, I included a loyalty oath at a university as a plot point. At the time, I thought it was fiction....

Chard said...

It's hard to outdo reality when it comes to weird, creepy, or just plain nasty.

Someone, somewhere, has already thought of it. And probably tried it.