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"Quaker Teacher Fired for Changing Loyalty Oath":

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to [California State University East Bay] undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees....

[W]hen asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said....

Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment." ...

"Based on the advice of counsel, we cannot permit attachments or addenda that are incompatible and inconsistent with the oath," the campus' human resources manager, JoAnne Hill, wrote ....

Hill said Kearney-Brown could sign the oath and add a separate note to her personal file that expressed her views. Kearney-Brown declined. "To me it just wasn't the same. I take the oath seriously, and if I'm going to sign it, I'm going to do it nonviolently." ...

Now I appreciate Cal State's desire to follow the law; the California Constitution does prescribe the text of the oath, and says "all public ... employees, ... except such inferior officers and employees as may be by law exempted, shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation." But surely there are times to interpret laws as requiring substantial compliance rather than strict literalism. Even the precedent that Ms. Hill cites as supposedly requiring the exact text of the oath (see the article for more on that) seems to take this view: It rejected the applicant's modified oath only after stressing that the modifications were not "surplusage" or "innocuous or merely expository," but rather "ma[d]e equivocal the essential oath preceding [the applicant's personal statement]." Likewise, the venerable principle that laws should be interpreted in a way that minimizes possible constitutional problems (here chiefly First Amendment problems related to compelled speech) counsels in favor of reading the law to provide some flexibility. In light of this, letting Ms. Kearney-Brown sign the entire oath, simply with the addition of a term, seems sufficiently consistent with the state mandate.

True, the Supreme Court has held that it doesn't violate the First Amendment to require certain narrow loyalty oaths, including support-and-defend oaths, for government employees. But the Court's justification was precisely that these oaths "do[] not require specific action in some hypothetical or actual situation"; they embody "simply a commitment to abide by our constitutional system ... [and] a commitment not to use illegal and constitutionally unprotected force to change the constitutional system."

Adding "nonviolently" to the oath (or affirmation) thus doesn't change its legal meaning: As the Supreme Court pointed out, the original oath has never been understood to require violent action. Draft laws and other laws may sometimes require such action, but they generally don't require it of women, and in any event it is those laws -- not the oaths required of a wide range of nonmilitary government employees -- that require the action.

So it looks like the state is losing a valuable employee, and has to spend time, money, and effort hiring a new employee. And people who (for religious reasons or other reasons) oppose violence and are especially scrupulous about not promising what they can't deliver lose the opportunity to work in state jobs. As I said, I agree the government should follow the law. But surely the law has enough flexibility in it to avoid this sort of pointless result.

Thanks to Joel Sogol for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. College Teacher Fired Over Loyalty Oath:
  2. "Pacifist Cal State Teacher Gets Job Back":
  3. "Quaker Teacher Fired for Changing Loyalty Oath":
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I bet the liberal, evil, religion hating ACLU takes the case.

How the minor modifications can justify a firing and still comport with the SC decision is beyond me (especially since she specifically is rejecting the use of force)
2.29.2008 1:47pm
Cornellian (mail):
EV is particularly appalled because Ms. Kearney-Brown is a math teacher :)
2.29.2008 1:56pm
alias:
If you're not willing to use violence to defend the Constitution, I don't think I want you teaching math to me or my kids.
2.29.2008 1:59pm
yankev (mail):
Does California have no equivalent of Ohio Revised Code Section 1.59

As used in any statute, unless another definition is provided in that statute or a related statute: (A) "Child" includes child by adoption. (B) "Oath" includes affirmation, and "swear" includes affirm. (C) "Person" includes an individual, corporation, business trust, estate...


Of course, that won't help with inserting "non-violently", but it would remove one issue.
2.29.2008 2:00pm
alias:
yankev, I think the word "or" in the oath should settle the problem of people who don't want to swear.
2.29.2008 2:03pm
FC:
I say the state is losing a pompous windbag. I agree with alias that violence is part of a citizen's duties, albeit very rarely.
2.29.2008 2:03pm
gcruse42 (mail) (www):
That's a darn shame.
Can I get a goldfish, now?
2.29.2008 2:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Exceptions do not remain exceptions.
They expand the boundary.
The next exception, somewhat more disturbing, would not be two steps from the (old) boundary, but only one step from the (new) boundary. Thus moving the boundary another step out.
In about three more steps we'd be arguing about "uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of The United States of America [inserted] to the extent it follows the UN Declaration of Human Rights..."

Or "my church".
But it would only be a slight, tiny, eeny change....
2.29.2008 2:20pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Couldn't she just cross her fingers when she signed it? This is much ado about nothing. Since when has a teacher been called upon to take up arms to defend the US and California based on signing this oath? No I don't personally see the need for anyone to sign a loyalty oath to be a part time teacher; however, that is not the issue. There is no reason why she couldn't have signed it the way it was written since it does not require her either to swear (as opposed to affirm) her allegiance or to take up arms.
2.29.2008 2:21pm
Qwerty:
Where is Major ____ de Covereley when you need him to end a Loyalty Oath Crusade?
2.29.2008 2:30pm
Qwerty:
Boy, CSU-EB is really shooting itself in the foot here. Where, oh where, will they find another grad student to be a part-time math TA?
2.29.2008 2:32pm
SeaDrive:

I say the state is losing a pompous windbag.


It takes one to know one, I guess.

It's absurd to deny state employment to a remedial math teacher (!) who happens to be a pacifist.
2.29.2008 2:33pm
Fub:
Richard Nieporent wrote at 2.29.2008 2:21pm:
Couldn't she just cross her fingers when she signed it?
Or just write "without prejudice, under protest" on the signature line along with her name, so UCC 1-207 would apply?
2.29.2008 2:35pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard Nierporent--
Clearly, this was a big deal for her. Making promises you don't intend to uphold even in hypothetical circumstance is a big deal to some people.

In normal, English usage, affirming you will defend against all enemies at least sounds like it could be construed to mean you are willing to take up arms against armed enemy invaders. I realize it may not mean this is some precise legal language, but many ordinary people would read it to mean this. The state is asking ordinary people to sign the oath. People assume the words means what they seem to mean in ordinary English.

So, in this case, she doesn't want to make it clear she won't take up arms.

As for me, I'm willing to affirm that I would fling bottle rockets in the street if we are invaded by armed combatants. But...well... that's just me. (In the end, I might chicken out. But, there you go.)
2.29.2008 2:40pm
mordecai (mail):
I couldn't take the oath, because I feel that it would commit me to take (possibly violent) action against our unconstitutional government and rogue courts, in order to defend the Constitution from such domestic enemies. Frankly, I'm too much of a coward for that.
2.29.2008 2:43pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Couldn't she just cross her fingers when she signed it? This is much ado about nothing.

Where were you in the thread about Obama and his lack of a flag pin?
2.29.2008 2:47pm
NI:
I think this one comes down to whether people should be loyal citizens or free citizens. The two are usually not mutually exclusive, but occasionally they are. Why is the government requiring __ANY__ oath at all to be a remedial math teacher?
2.29.2008 2:56pm
tvk:
Next up, does the religious-test-for-office clause get incorporated for states? (Seriously, does anyone know the answer?)
2.29.2008 3:00pm
Malvolio:
In normal, English usage, affirming you will defend against all enemies at least sounds like it could be construed to mean you are willing to take up arms against armed enemy invaders.
Indeed, what else could it mean? That you are willing to defend your countries against nonviolent invaders only?

I'm glad Ms Kearney-Brown has the integrity to refuse to sign a oath she doesn't agree with, even one that binds her to nothing, but I wish she had the intelligence to realize her position is incoherent.

"Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."
-- George Orwell

Some optimistic pacifists might assert that nonviolent resistance works against even violent opponents, a position that is logically consistent but factually incorrect. To those who don't believe me, I say, "Go try nonviolent resistance in, oh, Darfur. Your next-of-kin can admit to me that I was right."
2.29.2008 3:05pm
Dave N (mail):
I agree with Eugene on this one.

By the way, why doesn't the California Legislature just exempt part-time TA's from the oath?

Amd why do I smell a lawsuit coming out of this? Bong Hits for Jesus, anyone? I can see Judges Reinhardt, Pregerson, and Thomas all drooling to be on the panel for this one.
2.29.2008 3:07pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Lucia,

In normal, English usage, affirming you will defend against all enemies at least sounds like it could be construed to mean you are willing to take up arms against armed enemy invaders. I realize it may not mean this is some precise legal language, but many ordinary people would read it to mean this. The state is asking ordinary people to sign the oath. People assume the words means what they seem to mean in ordinary English.

Please give me a break. She is a graduate student. I presume that she understands the English language. If not, maybe she should not be teaching.

Let me reiterate, it is a stupid law. However, even for a Quaker (that is why they allow one to affirm as opposed to swear), there was no reason that she couldn't sign it.
2.29.2008 3:31pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

I take the oath seriously, and if I'm going to sign it, I'm going to do it nonviolently.


I do all my signing in a nonviolent manner.

How do you sign violently? With blood? Or with dramatic flare?

Seriously, what authority does the university have to override a state constitutional provision? Not a mere statute but the highest law of the state. Cole does not support her argument at all so the university has no basis to make an exception.

I note that the California constiution in the oath section provides an exception for "such inferior officers and employees as may be by law exempted" so if she still wants this plum post, get the legislature to exempt part time posts or posts under $800 dollars per month.
2.29.2008 3:34pm
Sean M:
I presume the problem with the "alterations" was her insertion of the word "nonviolently." Her deleting "swear" and circling affirm only makes clear she is choosing to affirm rather than swear (which is not necessary considering the grammatical context, but she wanted to be clear).

Therefore, as EV says, why make a big deal about it? Some person should have just looked at the form, nodded, and filed it with the rest of the 10,000 papers she likely signed as a new employee.

Glad we're putting form above substance. Not like kids need to learn math or anything.
2.29.2008 3:40pm
Pitman (mail) (www):
When I was inducted into the Israeli Army, if I recall correctly, an option was given for religious soldiers to says that they "proclaim/pledge" (matzhir) their allegiance and not "vow" (nishbah), since vows are taken very seriously in Jewish law.
2.29.2008 3:41pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I'm not a pacifist myself, but the idea that the state should effectively prohibit pacifists from being remedial math teachers is absurd. My guess is that this decision reflects the "gee, if we have to make this exception where could we possibly STOP?" concern of bureaucrats.

I wonder if EV could point Aubrey to some good legal scholarship discussing the issue of when slippery slopes were a valid concern and when they weren't.

Finally some of the comments seem to be suprisingly unconcerned with religious freedom when the religion teaches some things some conservatives oppose.
2.29.2008 3:41pm
Lior:
@Bob from Ohio:


I am neither a citizen nor a lawyer, but my guess is that once CA considers part-time teachers to be "Officers" (that is, office-holders) in the executive branch of its government, not just the State Constitution but also US Const. art. VI kicks in and requires some form of "oath or affirmation" to uphold the Federal Constitution. So (depending on the definition of "Officer"), CA may not have a choice in administering some form of oath. That said, the text of the oath is for the State Legislature to draft, and state agencies can't write new oaths on their own. This is something that needs to (and should) be fixed by the legislature.
2.29.2008 4:00pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard-
Please give me a break. She is a graduate student. I presume that she understands the English language. If not, maybe she should not be teaching.


Richard. You give me a break. I have a Ph.D. I would understand "affirming I will defend against all enemies" as suggesting that one would be willing to defend against all enemies using the methods that could possibly be construed as "defense". I parse it this way:

Affirm=>pledge in some way.
Enemies=> Enemies..
All=> Includes armed invaders.
defend=>to take action against attack or challenge

Sometimes, the only truly logical way for most people to defend against determined, armed invaders is violently.

What are you going to do? Repel them by refusing to serve them breakfast?

It may well be that as a matter of law, that you, a lawyer, parse these words differently and could advise someone that no pledge of violence is implied.

But that doesn't transform the ordinary meaning of those words imply to non-lawyers.

As for your notion she should teach if she doesn't read it this way: woman was going to teach math, not law.

As for your contention that
However, even for a Quaker (that is why they allow one to affirm as opposed to swear), there was no reason that she couldn't sign it.


First, it appear her concern also included "violent". At least that's how I read this:
She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said....


As for the issue of "swear" evidently, she felt the need to make it very clear she wasn't swearing.

On the one hand, I don't want to try to explain my non-legal understanding of the first amendment to on EV's thread-- as I know if he is cautious in the thread, there is likely to be a nuance I certainly don't know.

But I'd developed the impression from previous posts that, when applying the first amendment, the courts enquire into the adherents own understanding of their religion. If so, even if you, Richard, are a Quaker, and believe you know what the dominant position of Quakers is, or even if you are the Quaker equivalent of the Pope who post Quakers accept as authoritative, this woman may have slightly different beliefs and feel that, for religious reasons, she needs to modify that document.

I have no idea why they didn't permit it.

Moreover, I actually hope that should she sue, she would prevail. I don't think you or I or the courts should decide what being a Quaker is supposed to mean to her!
2.29.2008 4:09pm
A.S.:
Clearly she should not have crossed out or inserted any words. Instead, she should have attached a signing statement, making clear her interpretation of the text she was signing. That is, she would have attached a statement stating that she understood that "support and defend" would not require her to undertake any violence, and that she was choosing to affirm rather than swear.

I mean, if George Bush can attach a signing statement setting forth his interpretation of something he is signing, why not here? This is a perfect situation for a signing statement, no???
2.29.2008 4:22pm
Plaintiffs' Attorney:
CSU owns land. It is on land. They're describing what kind of teaching can occur on their land. It seems pretty clear that this was a crypto-land-use regulation that is covered by RLUIPA. Alternatively, given the amount they pay teachers, CSU can be considered a prison. Either way, the termination was clearly illegal.
2.29.2008 4:28pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If slippery slopes did not exist, the government definition of poverty would not contain many people who are morbidly obese.
2.29.2008 4:48pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Remind me again why California offers remedial math classes in college - at universities where you are supposed to be among the top 1/3 of graduating high school students to attend.

Nick
2.29.2008 4:55pm
Anderson (mail):
Quakers aren't required to take up arms to defend the U.S., so there's no plausible circumstance where she *would* be required to act other than nonviolently.

Firing her was dumb and, I hope, a violation of the federal Constitution. We will see.
2.29.2008 4:56pm
Dan L (mail):
Wait a second, the California Constitution, quoted above my Prof. Volokh, seems to allow exemptions for "inferior officers". I guess I'll have to assume Cal. doesn't exempt school teachers, because they certainly are inferior officers.
2.29.2008 4:57pm
c.gray (mail):

This is a perfect situation for a signing statement, no???


Pretty much. If our Quaker pacifist had done that, the statement would have gone in her personnel file, she would have the job, and everyone would (presumably) be happy. She was, in fact, offered the opportunity to do just that by the campus manager of human resources.

But such a course would not have afforded anyone the opportunity to demonstrate high principles and engage in a bit of public grandstanding.
2.29.2008 4:59pm
A.S.:

She was, in fact, offered the opportunity to do just that by the campus manager of human resources.



Hah. Serves me right for not actually clicking on the link to read that.

And the Left-wingers deny the value of signing statements...
2.29.2008 5:38pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Lucia,

In my first post I asked when was the last time anyone had to take up arms because they signed that oath. The answer of course is never. In fact since we have an all-volunteer army, nobody is forced to take up arms. Also she is a female, so she wouldn't be included in ground combat forces. Now somehow you want us to believe she managed to get all the way through college without any knowledge of these facts. I can only concluded that you are not being serious.
2.29.2008 5:39pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
JosephSlater

I'm not a pacifist myself, but the idea that the state should effectively prohibit pacifists from being remedial math teachers is absurd.

I guess she can always serve as a medic in the California State University East Bay Army just like all of the other pacifists.
2.29.2008 5:45pm
Randy R. (mail):
"In my first post I asked when was the last time anyone had to take up arms because they signed that oath. The answer of course is never."

I guess we are innured to the fact that so many public servants (ie., the Prez) sign stuff that they have no intention of following, so what's the big deal to lie about it?

And that's exactly what you are asking this woman to do. Lie about her intentions. Perhaps that's okay for you, or for ordinary Christians, but at least for this Quaker, it isn't okay. Shouldn't we be congratulating her on having the courage of her convictions? Isn't that a traditional value that Bennet has written about?

It really boggles me -- if she had been a Christian objecting to having to sign a document asserting that she would treat all gay students with dignity as she does hetero students, all of you would be up in arms over her firing. Freedom of religion! Freedom of conscience!

But I guess freedoms are limited to the things you think are meaningful.
2.29.2008 6:18pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
She is objecting to defending the Constitution. Nothing admirable about that.

She also does not have the courage of her convictions. That means accepting a harsh result as a cost of a conviction. It does not include whining about it to the media so as to score attagirls at the next meeting.
2.29.2008 6:42pm
Brett Bellmore:

Couldn't she just cross her fingers when she signed it? This is much ado about nothing.


Words can scarcely express the contempt I feel for this suggestion. Only outright coercion can justify falsely undertaking an oath, and even then I'd think more highly of the person that refused anyway.

Yes, it's true that the courts do not hold such oaths to be binding. So much the worse for the courts.
2.29.2008 7:03pm
rc:
It's ridiculous to imply that anyone who wants to teach second grade in a public school must also agree to grab a machine gun and mow down Terrorism, if so called upon.

A kindergarten teacher can be both good at his job and a loyal citizen without also being required to swear to blow up Al Quaeda, should the need arise.

This is just another case of goof-bucket school administrators overreaching their authority.
2.29.2008 7:25pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
It's ridiculous to imply that anyone who wants to teach second grade in a public school must also agree to grab a machine gun and mow down Terrorism, if so called upon.

It certainly is! Is there a full moon out tonight?
2.29.2008 7:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
"She is objecting to defending the Constitution. Nothing admirable about that. "

No. She specifically stated that she is happy to defend the Constitution, but only through nonviolent means. A person can defend the C through the court system, through published articles, and many other means. Picking up a gun and shooting people isn't the only way to defend the C.

Your comment convinces me that this is really all about proving your patriotism. If you won't sign a pledge saying that you love our country and it's the greatest, you don't deserve a job, or worse. This is the America that is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world?

"She also does not have the courage of her convictions. That means accepting a harsh result as a cost of a conviction."

Getting fired from a job isn't a harsh result? And how does going to the media pay her bills?
2.29.2008 7:46pm
Smokey:
Joseph Slater:
Finally some of the comments seem to be suprisingly unconcerned with religious freedom when the religion teaches some things some conservatives oppose.
Of course, that statement conflates religion with conservatism and patriotism. But, nice try there.

Your hyphenated Quaker is now free to fall into the arms of the Code Pinko warriorettes.
2.29.2008 8:46pm
Jmaie (mail):
"If our Quaker pacifist had done that, the statement would have gone in her personnel file, she would have the job, and everyone would (presumably) be happy. She was, in fact, offered the opportunity to do just that by the campus manager of human resources.

But such a course would not have afforded anyone the opportunity to demonstrate high principles and engage in a bit of public grandstanding."


Everyone would be happy, except Ms. Kearney-Brown. Terribly old fashioned and all, but some people take oaths seriously. This just might be "high principles" without "grandstanding". You appear to have made up your mind. Based on this post? The Chronicle article? Your deep knowledge of Quaker philosophy?
2.29.2008 9:11pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The school might be in trouble if they have to depend on the state attorney general for representation if the TA sues. According to the article, the AG basically said the TA is right:

Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that "as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values." For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don't have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.

The school's lawyer seems a bit too sure of herself:

Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment."

Does anyone know if the AG would be the school's lawyer in a suit?
2.29.2008 9:30pm
teqjack (mail):
Seems to me that she was being a bit silly to make a point. That the point is a bit obscure (the stricter Quakers may not take up arms, but can and do serve in combat front lines as medics etc) is, well, what makes it so interesting.

Actually, I occasionally worry about what would happen if I were to reply to the usual witness oath about (paraphrasing) "whole truth and nothing but" by saying "insofar as I am both able and allowed." I suspect what Fark.com sometimes calls "jailarity" would follow.
2.29.2008 9:47pm
MarkField (mail):

Words can scarcely express the contempt I feel for this suggestion. Only outright coercion can justify falsely undertaking an oath, and even then I'd think more highly of the person that refused anyway.


Thank you. Exactly.
2.29.2008 10:18pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

If you won't sign a pledge saying that you love our country and it's the greatest, you don't deserve a job, or worse.


Nice straw quaker there. The oath does not say anything like that, of course. Neither does it ask her to take up arms.

She takes the most extreme and illogical interpretation of "defend" and must then insist on her purity. No one in their right mind thinks anyone is asking a tutor to take up arms.

Plenty of non-violent uses of the word "defend". Do defense counsel defend criminals with guns? Don't PhD candidates defend their dissertations? Maybe they use shotguns.

I don't care if she tutors or not. But neither do I see any injustice.
2.29.2008 10:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I would suppose that a person could defend the Constitution against its enemies without necessarily committing to every possible means of defense, i.e., shooting the bastards. I rather suspect that the average oath-taker would be shocked if someone asked "do you mean violent rebellion, too?" I remember that as a federal civil servant (which job description requires neither being civil nor a servant) I had such an oath, rather pro forma, administered in about thirty seconds in an office. Tempest in teapot. She probably would be a bigger risk with a gun than without.
2.29.2008 11:03pm
Oren:
Dave, it's sad state of affairs when the swearing of any oath is 'pro forma'.

Bob, she's fine with all those meanings of defend except the one that involves shotguns and would prefer not to swear an oath that she does not sincerely believe.
3.1.2008 12:16am
Libertarian1 (mail):
This whole thread brings back a very personal memory. I was accepted for a very competitive residency slot at UCSF. This was way back in the turbulent 60s.

At that time the State demanded all employees sign a "loyalty" oath and we were considered state employees. In one of the very few rebellious acts of my life I refused to sign the oath. This was the days of the famous free speech movement, sit-ins in San Francisco and make love not war.

Nevertheless, all the paper work cleared and my application was approved. Casually I mentioned the loyalty oath and was told there was no problem as it had been signed just the way it was supposed to have been done. So I guess I have some unknown friend to thank.
3.1.2008 1:02am
SocratesAbroad (mail):

In about three more steps we'd be arguing about "uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of The United States of America [inserted] to the extent it follows the UN Declaration of Human Rights..."
Or "my church".

Richard is spot on, as mentioned in the original article:

She [HR manager JoAnne Hill] cited a 1968 case called Smith vs. County Engineer of San Diego. In that suit, a state appellate court ruled that a man being considered for public employment could not amend the oath to declare: his "supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ Whom Almighty God has appointed ruler of Nations, and expressing my dissent from the failure of the Constitution to recognize Christ and to acknowledge the Divine institution of civil government."
The court called it "a gratuitous injection of the applicant's religious beliefs into the governmental process."


If you won't sign a pledge saying that you love our country and it's the greatest, you don't deserve a job, or worse. This is the America that is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world?

Randy, apparently you fail to understand the rationale behind requiring the Oath:

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE: The oath of allegiance is required of U.S. citizens only. Employees of the State of California may be required to become Disaster Service Workers in the event of a local, state or national disaster or emergency. (California Government Code sections 3100-3109.) (From Cal State Northridge's State Employee Form)

Thus, the oath is an essential job requirement, not a pledge of devotion as Randy suggests, and is quite practical given California's susceptibility to wild fires, earthquakes, and such.
More on the legal basis for the Oath:

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE FOR PERSONS EMPLOYED BY A SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
(Required by Section 3 of Article XX, Constitution of the State of California, And by Chapter 8, Division 4, Title 1 of Government Code.)

And something to consider: loyalty oaths for teachers have a considerable history stretching back to the country's founding...
3.1.2008 7:00am
Hoosier:
Man, we should TOTALLY beat the crap out of people like this!
3.1.2008 7:47am
Hewart:
From the blog post:

"But surely there are times to interpret laws as requiring substantial compliance rather than strict literalism."

Hmmm...


*eyes US Constitution*
3.1.2008 11:09am
JosephSlater (mail):
Me: Finally some of the comments seem to be suprisingly unconcerned with religious freedom when the religion teaches some things some conservatives oppose.

Smokey: Of course, that statement conflates religion with conservatism and patriotism. But, nice try there.

Not even close. First, noting that her religion is pacifist is hardly conflating religion with conservatism. I personally believe pacifists can be quite patriotic, so I'm not equating religion with being unpatriotic either.

Bob From Ohio:

Again, she's not objecting to defending the Constitution. She's objecting to using violence. You think that the Constitution is at peril if we don't require remedial math teachers to swear that they will use violence in a way that violates their obviously sincerely-held religious beliefs? I think one could make the opposite argument more convincingly.
3.1.2008 11:14am
TomHynes (mail):
She should have come in with an NRA shirt and modified to the oath to say "I will use violence to support the Constitution". People would have freaked. Then she would have conceded "Okay, I will non-violently support the Constitution".
3.1.2008 12:34pm
Hrm:

Richard. You give me a break. I have a Ph.D. I would understand "affirming I will defend against all enemies" as suggesting that one would be willing to defend against all enemies using the methods that could possibly be construed as "defense".


As someone with a PhD, why would you interpret a legal document yourself instead of consulting a lawyer? It makes no sense.

In this specific case, the article says HR even gave an option that could resolve this. Why this person insisted on doing it their way or no way I can't understand. It's certainly not principled, as principle would have permitted the method offered by HR. I'm going to go with ignorance here and be generous. Otherwise I have to assume they were looking for something to use for attention :(



This is the America that is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world?


Yes, this is *exactly* why America is a beacon of hope. She refused to sign, and all that happened was she couldn't have that specific job. In the country my father escaped from to America, refusing to sign a similar statement would have likely led to his personal jailing, and deep suspicion from the authorities upon the rest of his family.

Here, this woman even had the ability to take her situation to the media. I don't agree with this, since I think this is an issue of her own making, but I certainly would never oppose someone being able to do so!
3.1.2008 2:18pm
Randy R. (mail):
Socrates: "Thus, the oath is an essential job requirement, not a pledge of devotion as Randy suggests, and is quite practical given California's susceptibility to wild fires, earthquakes, and such."

Then they should require her to sign a statement saying that she will help out when disaster strikes. But that has nothing to do with the Constitutions. And besides, she HAS NO PROBLEM with defending the C. I really don't understand why that is so hard for some to understand.

HRM: " In the country my father escaped from to America, refusing to sign a similar statement would have likely led to his personal jailing, and deep suspicion from the authorities upon the rest of his family. . She refused to sign, and all that happened was she couldn't have that specific job. "

Actually, she was fired for not signing. But what a great slogan we now can boast:

Come to America! We aren't as oppressive as other countries! We're Number 6! Whoohoo!
3.1.2008 5:13pm
lucia (mail) (www):
David Nierporent.--
I'm being entirely serious. To some people who are serious about their religion, the fact that the probability that she would be asked to take up arms is vanishingly small is irrelevant. The fact that she is being asked to affirm that she would do so is the important point to her.

I don't know why you don't understand this. But, clearly, this was important to her. She refused to sign, and lost a job as a result.

I'm not religious. I wouldn't personally see this as a problem. But I do know some very devout people, and these principles, which do, indeed hinge on what they believe they are being asked to say or affirm matters.
3.1.2008 6:50pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Lucia,

1) It is Richard not David
2) The correct spelling is Nieporent
3) The fact that there is a zero chance for her to be asked to take up arms means that she is either very ignorant or a zealot
4) The fact that she is in graduate school indicates that the latter is true
5) Religious fanaticism is not an admiral trait no matter what the religion is because it precludes rational thought
3.1.2008 9:48pm
Waldensian (mail):

It's ridiculous to imply that anyone who wants to teach second grade in a public school must also agree to grab a machine gun and mow down Terrorism, if so called upon.

You never know what might happen at a public school.
3.2.2008 12:25am
SocratesAbroad (mail):

Then they should require her to sign a statement saying that she will help out when disaster strikes.

Randy, allowing Kearney-Brown to specify just how or under what conditions she will fulfill her duties as a state employee is patently silly.
By choosing to affirm the oath, state employees recognize that their job may entail being mobilized by the state in a wide variety of instances.

o California Government Code
+ GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 3100-3109
3100. It is hereby declared that the protection of the health and safety and preservation of the lives and property of the people of the state from the effects of natural, manmade, or war-caused emergencies which result in conditions of disaster or in extreme peril to life, property, and resources is of paramount state importance requiring the responsible efforts of public and private agencies and individual citizens.

But that has nothing to do with the Constitutions.

No, Randy, it directly relates to the state Constitution since the Constitution is the legal basis for the state government authorizing , training, and mobilizing state employees.

Employees are required to complete all Disaster Service Worker-related training as assigned, and to return to work as ordered in the event of an emergency.

This is delineated further in the above code:
In furtherance of the exercise of the police power of the state in protection of its citizens and resources, all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.
3101. For the purpose of this chapter the term "disaster service worker" includes all public employees and all volunteers in any disaster council or emergency organization accredited by the California Emergency Council. The term "public employees" includes all persons employed by the state or any county, city, city and county, state agency or public district, excluding aliens legally employed.
3102. (a) All disaster service workers shall, before they enter upon the duties of their employment, take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation required by this chapter.

And besides, she HAS NO PROBLEM with defending the C.

Randy, Kearney-Brown evidently has a major problem with "support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California" in that as a state employee she wishes to fulfill her duties conditionally.
If Kearney-Brown cannot meet all of the job requirements, then she is, despite her educational credentials, obviously not the most appropriate person for the position.
3.2.2008 2:50am
Richard Nieporent (mail):
D'oh! Change that to admirable in point 5 of my 9:48pm post.
3.2.2008 8:27am
Randy R. (mail):
Well, we have two completely divergent reasons why she should be fired. David says that she should sign the oath because there is a 'zero chance' that she will be asked to take up arms or otherwise 'defend' the C, and so the oath is meaningless.
You, on the other hand, presume that the state may very well ask her to pitch in during a disaster, and so the oath has quite a bit of meaning.

So which is it? I'll leave you two to argue who is correct, but you both can't be.

Socrates, there is zero evidence that the reason anyone is asked to take this oath is because their help will be needed for a disaster. First, the document is entitled "Oath of Allegiance." It is not a "Promise to Act during a Disaster." Second, even if it were true, any disaster relief person will tell you that volunteers who are not properly trained are of very limited value, and often become a danger to themselves. Third, if there is a disaster, there is usually no shortage of volunteers to do anything that a volunteer actually can do. Remember 9/11?
Fifth, and most important, is that the Oath specifically states that she must defend the C. 'against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' perhaps you believe than an earthquake is a 'domestic enemy' but in actuality it is not. If the document is only what you say it is, then why would it have this phrase in it? The state is asking her to, IF NECESSARY, take up arms against foreign invaders.

Despite your parsing, it is clear, even from the title, Oath of Allegiance, that this is a document that is trying to determine the level of patriotism she has. And that's impermissible, in my view.
3.2.2008 11:52am
Jaynie59 (mail):
Over 60 comments and only one mentioned the only real obvious problem here.

Why is a university even offering a class in remedial math at all?

I had to take a remedial math "refresher" course the summer before I started junior college to get an Associates Degree in Retail Management. But I wasn't on the "college" track. This was in the 1970's and I was a votech student who took mostly business classes. After 9th grade Algebra I, which I got an A in btw, I never took another math course again. I took things like Accounting, Typing (they call it "keyboarding" these days), and business and marketing courses. I couldn't remember how to divide, much less how to do fractions and decimals. But it all came back to me.

If students can't pass a simple math test they have no business applying to a university, and those schools have no business accepting them.

How dumb must kids be today to get into a junior college?
3.2.2008 12:21pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard:

3) The fact that there is a zero chance for her to be asked
to take up arms means that she is either very ignorant or a zealot

First: No, it does not. The fact that there is zero chance of her to be asked to take up arms still leaves the possibility that it violates her religion to affirm she would be willing to do this.

I do not consider this to be zealotry. You may, of course, hold the opposite view.

Either way, it is my impression that the first amendment extends to protecting zealots.


5) Religious fanaticism is not an admiral trait no matter what the religion is because it precludes rational thought

Agreed. But that does not preclude the possibility that she holds a particular religious view. I am under the impression that the first amendment applies to all religious views, including those that are either fervent, fanatical or irrational.
3.2.2008 2:51pm
Randy R. (mail):
Jaynie: "Why is a university even offering a class in remedial math at all? "

Remedial English is quite common, even at large universities. Our high schools just push 'em out, I reckon.
3.3.2008 12:47am
Kent G. Budge (mail) (www):
I've gotten out of jury duty at least once by stating in the "Comments" section of the potential juror survey that I resented having to identify my race. I did give my correct race in the section requiring it.

Funny thing is that I would actually have liked to serve on the jury. But I loathe official non-color-blindness and just couldn't keep my yap shut.

So I'm not unsympathetic to this woman's position, even if I find her pacifism itself morally and intellectually bankrupt.
3.3.2008 1:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
To me, it is a clear 1st Amdt. issue, both forced speech and religion. To those who point to the CA Constitution, I would respond that the 1st Amdt. was made applicable to the states via the 14th Amdt., and the Supremacy Clause overrules the CA Constitution.

My understanding is that the swear/affirm distinction is long standing, typically based on a religious prohibition against swearing. In keeping with her religion, she merely made this explicit.

Her nonviolent defense seems to merely be keeping with the tenets of her religion. We have a long standing practice of acknowledging this with Quakers. For example, Quakers have typically gotten automatic CO draft deferments for just this reason. (But this religious interpretation has a margin of personal interpretation - Richard Nixon was apparently eligible for a CO deferment, but served in the Navy regardless). I have every reason to believe that this was based on a long held religious view on her part.

Similarly, a number of people will not swear, or even affirm, falsely, again for religious reasons. The suggestion that she should have just signed to statement falsely, and be done with it, is forced speech and likely against a tenet of her religion.

Looking at who took what side here, there seems to be some correlation between those espousing a collectivist right to the 2nd Amdt. and support of the state here on the one hand, and an individual 2nd Amdt. right and support for the teacher. Not complete correlation, but enough to be possibly indicative of two very different views of government. Not complete, of course, since at least some ACLU chapters would support her, but none are likely to support an individual 2nd Amdt. right.
3.3.2008 2:27pm
Dave Redden (mail) (www):
If the oath is non-binding then what's the purpose behind it? If I were a constitutional subversive I would lie and CSU would gain nothing from the oath. Firing or refusing to hire people for not signing such an unaltered oath does little but weed out people with convictions stronger than the mainstream or outside the mainstream. Experience shows that most people with such convictions hold them as part of their religious belief, therefore this law unfairly discriminates against people of certain religious beliefs.

Just throwing it out there. It may be total bunk.

Dale Carpenter for Pres 2012!
3.4.2008 10:32am
Earnest Iconoclast (mail) (www):
There is some precedent for pacifists serving the country with honor and distinction.

Having said that, why is the State of California requiring such an oath from teachers? Why not an oath asking them to, um, teach? Is it really necessary to require this from teachers? Does Califirnia require the guys who mow the highways to also swear an oath to defend the Constitution? Am I the only one who thinks this is silly?
3.4.2008 3:31pm