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College Teacher Fired Over Loyalty Oath:

The LA Times has an interesting story on a Cal State Fullerton instructor, Wendy Gonaver, who was fired for refusing to sign the state's loyalty oath.

the day before class was scheduled to begin, her appointment as a lecturer abruptly ended over just the kind of issue that might have figured in her course. She lost the job because she did not sign a loyalty oath swearing to "defend" the U.S. and California constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

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. She offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a brief statement expressing her views, a practice allowed by other state institutions. But Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job.

Apparently this is not an isolated incident.

In February, another Cal State instructor, Quaker math teacher Marianne Kearney-Brown, was fired because she inserted the word "nonviolently" when she signed the oath. She was quickly rehired after her case attracted media attention.

It is hard to know how many would-be workers decline to sign the pledge over religious or political issues. Some object because they interpret the pledge as a commitment to take up arms. Others have trouble swearing an oath to something other than their God.

I don't know as much about this area of the law, but I find it hard to believe that this policy could survive a court challenge, particularly since (as the story notes) the Cal State system applies the oath requirement more stringently than is required. Other state agencies apparently allow individuals to qualify the oath or attach explanatory statements.

wekt:
Related post: http://volokh.com/posts/1204310493.shtml
5.2.2008 11:36am
PersonFromPorlock:

...I find it hard to believe that this policy could survive a court challenge....

But as others have pointed out, the process is the punishment; it will survive a court challenge easily if the affected party can't afford to mount one.

Or as Joseph Heller put it: "They can do anything to you that you can't stop them from doing."
5.2.2008 11:41am
vassil petrov (mail):
One has the fundamental rights to talk politics and to worship freely one's god(s), but not to be a teacher in public schools. Justice Holmes wrote that somewere.
5.2.2008 11:46am
Gulf Coast Bandit (mail):
Administrators really are stupid. You'd think they'd figure out after the first time they got slammed for doing something like this.
5.2.2008 11:46am
BarrySanders20:
It certainly fails the common sense test.
5.2.2008 12:01pm
Randy R. (mail):
And yet, the last time this was posted, there were many commentators who actually defended the state's action. Apparently, if you don't agree to defend the constitution, you aren't fit to teach at a public school. So the discussion got around to what do they mean by 'defend', and some people actually thought that, as a public school teacher, she should agree to take up arms and shoot people if the need arises or else she should be fired.

I'm sure these people will turn up shortly.
5.2.2008 12:16pm
Roscoe (mail):
I don't know. I had to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution when I was commissioned in the Marines. I realize it is a whole lot less likely that instructors at California state colleges will one day have to defend the system they work for (unless things really go to hell), but does that make requiring them to promise to do so unconstitutional?
5.2.2008 12:17pm
Anon Y. Mous:

... the Cal State system applies the oath requirement more stringently than is required. Other state agencies apparently allow individuals to qualify the oath or attach explanatory statements.

What makes you believe that Cal State is wrong about what's required? Perhaps the other state agencies are deviating from what's required.
5.2.2008 12:18pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh, and then there they folks who think she should lie and say she will defend it even if she doesn't because, hey, lying under oath is so easy and common. What's the problem?

Really, this is an artifact from the 50s, and it should be dropped into the dustbin of history.

For those who don't get it, read King Lear again, and take note of Scene I, Act I.
5.2.2008 12:19pm
Charles Weisselberg:
In November 2007, a ship hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel oil. Many volunteers stepped forward to help clean the oil from the beaches and shoreline. As part of the effort, the State Dep't of Fish and Game held an information session for volunteers. It passed out forms for them to fill out, including -- you guessed it -- a loyalty oath.
5.2.2008 12:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
Roscoe: " I had to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution when I was commissioned in the Marines."

And that makes sense. It's your JOB as a Marine to defend America and her interests as a Marine. You are taking up arms and trained to kill people on its behalf. So to tie you closely with the rights, priviledges and duties commanded from the Constitution, it makes sense.

But does the janitor who cleans the floors of a public school need to prove his loyalty to the Constitution? Probably not. And neither does any public employee who isn't in the military.
5.2.2008 12:22pm
Kazinski:
When someone works for the government in a capacity, shouldn't it be a given that they support the legitimacy of that governemnt and will do what is in their power to sustain the government? This is quite different than loyalty oaths to an adminstration or a party. Seems a pretty small burden to me, it is a formulaic oath, there are not racks of M-16s in her office building ready and waiting to be distributed for her to take up arms to fight percieved enemies.
5.2.2008 12:25pm
Flydiveski:
Quakers are opposed to violence. This lady offered to sign if she was allowed to make that clear. She was not opposed to defending the constitution, she was opposed to affirming that she would do so with violence. There's a long tradition in the United States of non-violent support for the Constitution. For a Marine, violence is part of the job; every Marine is a rifleman. A Quaker Marine would be a bit of a contradiction; not so a Quaker teacher. Cal State's view fails the common sense test. It also turns out to discriminate against non-violent religious minorities. Once again, narrow-minded administrators cause an uproar over a stupid application of a rule.
5.2.2008 12:30pm
Oren:
Also, what possible utility does this oath have in any real sense? Enemies of the US Constitution (godless Commies that they are) couldn't possibly have a problem swearing a false oath to a country they don't regard as legitimate.
5.2.2008 12:32pm
JK:
Well it's certainly bad policy, and this is a particularly compelling case because she is a member of a historic religious group, and not a lone nut.
5.2.2008 12:32pm
Flydiveski:

shouldn't it be a given that they support the legitimacy of that governemnt and will do what is in their power to sustain the government?


This is not what the lady was objecting to. She fully supports the constitution, and will do what is within her power to support it. However, her religious beliefs prevent her from using violence.

Lots of folks miss the point, taking her refusal to sign as a sign of disloyalty or lack of support. She is only following her religious practices and eschewing violence in her support, protection, defending the constitution.
5.2.2008 12:34pm
The Unbeliever:
But does the janitor who cleans the floors of a public school need to prove his loyalty to the Constitution? Probably not. And neither does any public employee who isn't in the military.

Does signing the oath "prove" anything, or just demonstrate a willingness to prove said loyalty should the need ever arise?

I would say in that worst case scenario, one of the basic requirements of citizenship is to defend your country, whether by taking up arms, or engaging in espionage under enemy occupation, or merely providing aid and comfort to those who would do those things. Defensive and offensive operations entail a lot more than firing guns or launching missiles; does the local quartermaster provide any less a valuable service than the soldiers he supplies? What about the chef in the mess hall? Does being a Quaker really preclude cooking for soldiers engaged in domestic operations--and if so, and the populace feels this is an unreasonable voluntary limitation, doesn't this loyalty oath actually have a point when determining what POV is taught in schools?
5.2.2008 12:38pm
WHOI Jacket:
For the record, Georgia requires a similar oath and I signed it when I applied to work as an Undergraduate Research Assistant.
5.2.2008 12:43pm
JosephSlater (mail):
One has the fundamental rights to talk politics and to worship freely one's god(s), but not to be a teacher in public schools. Justice Holmes wrote that somewere.

He did indeed. That rule, however, was emphatically rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts in the mid-late 1960s.
5.2.2008 12:43pm
vassil petrov (mail):
Well it's certainly bad policy, and this is a particularly compelling case because she is a member of a historic religious group, and not a lone nut.
So, if somebody does not belong to a historic religious group is a lone nut, tertuim non datur?
5.2.2008 12:53pm
dwp2000:
The Supreme Court looked at this issue in Giroud v. United States, 328 US 61 (1946) and upheld a loyalty oath against a religious challenge from a conscientious objector on the grounds that bearing arms is not the only way to support and defend the country.
5.2.2008 12:59pm
Houston Lawyer:
I had to sign a similar oath when I was sworn in to the Texas Bar. Not a heavy burden.

The oath she was asked to sign didn't say that she would pick up a sword and smite the enemies of the constitution.
5.2.2008 12:59pm
therut:
I had to sign an oath to protect and defend the Arkansas Constitution and not rebel aganist the Arkansas Governor when I got my CCW. Think the lefties would that that unconstitutional? I have not seen the ACLU even wink.
5.2.2008 1:08pm
Oren:
therut, doesn't that defeat the entire point of the 2A? I thought we had runs so we can rebel against Bill Clinton when Hilary appoints him governor-of-AK-for-life.
5.2.2008 1:13pm
PLR:
I had to sign a similar oath when I was sworn in to the Texas Bar. Not a heavy burden.

The oath she was asked to sign didn't say that she would pick up a sword and smite the enemies of the constitution.

I signed an oath to "support" the Constitution, which I do to this day.
5.2.2008 1:14pm
whit:
i was an employee of the UC system (california) and refused to sign the oath for the first year of employment. they let me work as a volunteer, but i had to give up any pay.

after a year i signed it. it was more a matter of principle, since i had little problem with violence in a just war. you are right. the oath does not require you defend the constitution with VIOLENCE or physical force, so i think the quaker argument is non-compelling.

disclosure: i attended a quaker school and i am well aware of what they think
5.2.2008 1:15pm
A.S.:
What's the difference between Gonaver and Kearney-Brown?

I don't understand why Gonaver couldn't do what Kearney-Brown did - include a personal statement in the file. That was good enough for Kearney-Brown, and it should have been good enough for Gonaver. In the Kearney-Brown case, the objector was permitted to include a statement in the file, but not to "attach" it to the loyalty oath. As far as I could tell, the issue was entirely created by Kearney-Brown in that case, who at first insisted on "attaching" but then accepted including the statement in the file.

As with the Kearney-Brown case, this is a media-driven stunt.

Also, why anyone would infer that "defending" the Constitution includes a requirement to use violence is beyond me.
5.2.2008 1:18pm
JK:
Vassil,
Certainly not, and as a matter of principle it probably shouldn't matter, but like it or not, facts do matter in cases like this. The fact that she is a Quaker, a religious group dating back to before the revolution, makes this case more appealing for litigation than if she were, say, an anarchist.
5.2.2008 1:22pm
Malthus:
Hoho Houston Lawyer:

You can't even SIT for the bar exam if you don't believe in a "supreme being"(required by the Texas Constitution), according to the TBA. You can't even serve as a juror. As I once told an Austin judge, "I can't do jury duty since there's no way I can support the Texas Constitution."

Madalyn Murray O'Hair couldn't get a fair trial in Texas because she couldn't find judge, juror, prosecutor or defense lawyer (even in Fed Court) who hadn't already bent over deep to the religious state of Texas.
5.2.2008 1:23pm
Hoosier:
For university faculty at a large majority of institutions, there is an implicit oath of disloyalty, or at least contempt, for the US and its government. (Doubt it? Imagine a non-tenured faculty member who lead her classes in voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance three times a week. Does she get tenure, other things equal?)

Perhaps we should just ask our university faculties to be good at what they do, tolerant of and reasonable toward those who don't agree with them. And then let them make their own damned decisions about their obligations to the Contitution and goverment. I mean, worth a try, no?
5.2.2008 1:24pm
Hoosier:
Malthus--And then, on top of that, God sent hit-men to rub her out. Now THAT'S tough opposition.
5.2.2008 1:25pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Some conscientious objectors turned into terrific medics. Others said that fixing up soldiers to be returned to the battle was too close to supporting violence.
Would Gonaver and Kearney-Brown cook for the shooters? Roll bandages? Run messages? Infiltrate an enemy group?

It will be a while until we see a replay of The War of 1812...I hope. But that doesn't mean it, or some massive internal struggle can't possibly happen. Then it's a gut check for all of us. Including Quakers. It seems reasonable to ask what they would be prepared to do, when they take up state employment.
5.2.2008 1:26pm
Malthus:
Hoosier:

Funny, that's the one thing Dr O'Hair shared with Jesus.
5.2.2008 1:28pm
Hoosier:
Malthus--Oh, is THAT what happened to him? I had always heard it was The Joos.
5.2.2008 1:31pm
BZ (mail):
Hmm, a couple of comments (as a birthright Quaker -- which means something to those in the know -- and one who has represented pacifists before the Supreme Court and other courts):

There are, in fact, Quakers in the military, and even Quaker religious representatives who minister to military personnel. There are different branches of the Religious Society of Friends, and many different beliefs. Some of us once talked about putting together a conservative Friends group. Many of those who now profess to be Quakers do so because they believe in a particular branch of the philosophy, often generated by post-Vietnam beliefs, not because they read the original George Fox or other forms of the school of thought. "Speaking truth to power" draws many, as does the popular view of pacifism. In fact, it is a common belief in the Washington, D.C. area, that many people join meetings (Quakers do not have churches) to secure places in local Friends schools, which tend to be quite good (we sent ours to Catholic schools instead). So you can't generalize about all Quakers the same way.

Representing pacifists in court is generally a losing battle. You are unlikely to get much attention, and rarely a substantial hearing. It's not so much that people think your client is odd (though they do), but that it is so easy to posit a workaround (as DWP pointed out the SCotUS did after WWII). Once one is put forth, it becomes the standard for denial, without any real analysis of the effect on the individual bringing the challenge. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; only that it is common.
5.2.2008 1:33pm
whit:
"Perhaps we should just ask our university faculties to be good at what they do, tolerant of and reasonable toward those who don't agree with them. And then let them make their own damned decisions about their obligations to the Contitution and goverment. I mean, worth a try, no?"

first and foremost, university employees are government employees... like cops, firemen, librarians (of public librairies obviously), etc.

i find it highly reasonable for the govt. to say "want to work for the govt? affirm that you support the constitution, the very blueprint OF our govt."
5.2.2008 1:33pm
Malthus:
Hoosier--I should have said that's the one thing Dr O'Hair shared with Jesus and a hell of a lot of other Joos.
5.2.2008 1:34pm
Malthus:
BZ--Was Richard Nixon a "birthright Quaker" or just one of the regular kind?
5.2.2008 1:36pm
Daniel H:
Why is there the presumption that the word 'defend' means 'are willing to shoot someone'? Isn't defending the Constitution done in a more rhetorical manner, like via debate and writings anyway. The oath doesn't say defend the country or state, but the constitution.
5.2.2008 1:41pm
EKGlen (mail):

In February, another Cal State instructor, Quaker math teacher Marianne Kearney-Brown, was fired because she inserted the word "nonviolently" when she signed the oath. She was quickly rehired after her case attracted media attention.

I wonder if this instructor could have redrafted the Oath to her liking as well?
5.2.2008 1:47pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
Arizona has one of these, too.
5.2.2008 1:53pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Another liberal traitor. I hope her life is totally ruined.
5.2.2008 1:54pm
Happyshooter:
United States ex rel. Reel v. Badt, 152 F.2d 627.

A 1939 oath to 'defend' the Constitution as a state employee is too far removed in time from a 1943 draft notice.

Thus, the 1943 draftee can claim he is opposed to violence and get out of the draft.

The case reviews prior law which, closer in time to the oath, would mean the oath taker is forbidden from claiming they are opposed to war.

So taking the oath four year before the draft allows the oath taker to take the coward's way out. However, the oath itself does mean the oath taker is willing to fight for America.
5.2.2008 1:56pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Daniel H:

Why is there the presumption that the word 'defend' means 'are willing to shoot someone'?

Why is there a presumption that it doesn't? Swearing oaths with undefined terms is a mug's game: an oath is a contract, after all.
5.2.2008 2:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
"i find it highly reasonable for the govt. to say "want to work for the govt? affirm that you support the constitution, the very blueprint OF our govt."

But making anyone sign a document like this is a silly and pointless exercise. Sure, it makes people like you feel good, but it has no practical effect whatsoever.

Those who do support our gov't will have no problem signing the document.
Those who do NOT support our gov't will have no problem signing the document. Those who do not support our gov't will have no problem ignoring their signature if they do sign it.

"Sir, you can't rebell against the gov't. We have your signature stating your support." "oh, I guess you are right. I'll drop my gun right now!"

Some people here have said that they sign documents stating their belief in a God, even though they don't. So please tell me how Texas is protected by them signing something that's a lie?

If you think it's reasonable to have people on the public role signing a loyalty oath, then you have no problem with people on signing loyalty oaths to their local school. Afterall, it you send your kids to that school, it's reasonable to think that you would be loyal to that school and never ever cheer for some other football team. And if you live in a city, you should be signing loyalty oaths that you love Milwaukee and will never drink beer from any other city, and will defend it against all enemies, foriegn and domestic. So if Jay Leno makes jokes about your city, you are thereby bound to send him nasty letters.

I'm sorry, but I think this is silly.
5.2.2008 2:07pm
Aultimer:

Does being a Quaker really preclude cooking for soldiers engaged in domestic operations--

No.


whit:

the oath does not require you defend the constitution with VIOLENCE or physical force, so i think the quaker argument is non-compelling.

disclosure: i attended a quaker school and i am well aware of what they think



You must have done poorly in your Quakerism classes. Reporting for duty (with the idea of taking a non-combat position) resulted in problems for drafted WWII Quakers, which helped in forming of the AFSC.
5.2.2008 2:25pm
WHOI Jacket:
Randy R.

I think that kind of trivializes the point. Recall that the oaths were introduced during a time period where there was active infiltration of various levels of government with Communist sympathizers.
5.2.2008 2:27pm
Flydiveski:
I swear (or affirm), this discussion has gotten totally out of hand. (Non-violently, of course.)
5.2.2008 2:44pm
DaSarge (mail):

I hereby solemnly swear (or affirm) ... to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to same.


It is one thing have liberties that others protect, letting others do the dirty work, so she can fell good about herself because she is not using violence. That is her right, as selfish and narcissistic as it is.

It is quite another to be a public official, take the taxpayers money, and decline to stand by the very rules that give rise to your paycheck. It is just like jury duty, or being drafted in the time of war (there is no constitutional right to be a conscientious objector). She wants the people's shilling; she must give her loyalty in return.

I have taken that oath many times over the years: as a Marine (repeatedly), the WA Bar, the bar of several US Dt Cts, the 9th Circ, SCOTUS. One has no right to take the benefits of the Constitution and simultaneously subvert it.

Someone needs to tell this lady a few grown-up truths:
Life is tough, sometimes things are not as you like them;
You're damned lucky to be an American, a status that only exists because others forsook their lives to protect it;
Grow up and do your duty.

Oh, and by the way, the "affirm" part was added just so Quakers could take the oath.
5.2.2008 2:47pm
darelf:
Yes, it is silly. She should just accept that rules are that she sign the oath in order to work there. She is silly to demand otherwise.
5.2.2008 2:49pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
When Wendy Gonaver was offered a job teaching American studies at Cal State Fullerton this academic year, she was pleased to be headed back to the classroom to talk about one of her favorite themes: protecting constitutional freedoms.
I suppose you can "protect constitutional freedoms" without "defending the Constitution." Certainly you can do so as a pacifist, although I would debate the effectiveness of such.

The oath is BS. I suppose what really amazes me is that this happens in California instead of Kansas.

To me Gonaver looks way to young to be a college lecturer, but that is prejudice.
5.2.2008 2:50pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that kind of trivializes the point. Recall that the oaths were introduced during a time period where there was active infiltration of various levels of government with Communist sympathizers.
And what has changed?

All joking aside, while many government employees tend toward socialism in their political views, I would suggest that the only place where you will likely find real communist sympathizers these days is in the academy.
5.2.2008 2:51pm
Waldensian (mail):

...there are not racks of M-16s in her office building ready and waiting to be distributed for her to take up arms to fight percieved enemies.

But maybe there ought to be.

How quickly we forget.
5.2.2008 3:08pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I think that kind of trivializes the point. Recall that the oaths were introduced during a time period where there was active infiltration of various levels of government with Communist sympathizers."

And exactly how many Communist sympathizers were caught because they refused to sign the oath?

DeSarge: "One has no right to take the benefits of the Constitution and simultaneously subvert it"

How, exactly, is she subverting the Constitution? She explicity stated that she actually supports the Constitution!

"Life is tough, sometimes things are not as you like them." True. And all those blacks who were discriminated against with Jim Crow laws should just accept that life is tough and things are not as you like them.

"You're damned lucky to be an American, a status that only exists because others forsook their lives to protect it."

True again. So perhaps we should make everyone American sign a loyalty oath? Why stop at just public employees?

"Grow up and do your duty."

You have a duty to sign a loyalty oath? And where in the Constitution does it say that?
5.2.2008 3:14pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I think that kind of trivializes the point. Recall that the oaths were introduced during a time period where there was active infiltration of various levels of government with Communist sympathizers."

And exactly how many Communist sympathizers were caught because they refused to sign the oath?

DeSarge: "One has no right to take the benefits of the Constitution and simultaneously subvert it"

How, exactly, is she subverting the Constitution? She explicity stated that she actually supports the Constitution!

"Life is tough, sometimes things are not as you like them." True. And all those blacks who were discriminated against with Jim Crow laws should just accept that life is tough and things are not as you like them.

"You're damned lucky to be an American, a status that only exists because others forsook their lives to protect it."

True again. So perhaps we should make everyone American sign a loyalty oath? Why stop at just public employees?

"Grow up and do your duty."

You have a duty to sign a loyalty oath? And where in the Constitution does it say that?
5.2.2008 3:14pm
JB:
Oren: Also, what possible utility does this oath have in any real sense? Enemies of the US Constitution (godless Commies that they are) couldn't possibly have a problem swearing a false oath to a country they don't regard as legitimate.

Stop making sense!

Seriously, this is why the whole controversy is stupid from the point of view of the administration. The oath is self-obviating, since anyone who would willingly swear to it won't break it anyhow, and anyone who would refuse won't keep it even if compelled to.
5.2.2008 3:21pm
Jim Rose (mail) (www):
In the 1950's a famous Constitutional Law professor was asked by his students if he would take a loyalty oath to support the Constitution, and he replied "Why not? It's been supporting me for years."
5.2.2008 3:23pm
Cornellian (mail):

For those who don't get it, read King Lear again, and take note of Scene I, Act I.


I question the assumption that they've read it before.
5.2.2008 3:28pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
if the state can compel us to do business with its protected groups, surely then it is well within reason to think it can compel its school teachers to take a pledge.
5.2.2008 3:34pm
ObeliskToucher:
Text of the oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
5.2.2008 3:34pm
Hoosier:
For those who don't get it, read King Lear again, and take note of Scene I, Act I.

I question the assumption that they've read it before.


So Randy and Cornellian: You made it all the way through Act I , Scene I?
5.2.2008 3:41pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I question the assumption that they've read it before."

(sigh). What this all boils down to is that some people want to demand that other people love America and they must prove it publically.

Frankly, I don't care whether a teacher or other public servant is a Communist sympathizer. So what? As long as they teach the curriculum and do their job, who cares what they think? What matters is their *actions*. Will they actually subvert the Constitution? I don't see how they can short of an armed insurrection, but you get my point.

How about this as a compromise. Instead of a loyalty oath, you have them sign a statement that they agree they will never attempt to overthrow the gov't, and will do anything that will actually subvert the Constitution. This takes it out of the realm of the thought police, and focuses on actions, rather than beliefs.

Because even in America, we are free to believe whatever we like, no matter how wrong headed it is. See the other thread on creationism for proof of that.
5.2.2008 3:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Hoosier: "So Randy and Cornellian: You made it all the way through Act I , Scene I?"

Me thinks thou doth use humor in a subversive manner. Be gone!

(exuent).
5.2.2008 3:45pm
teqjack (mail):
As quoted, the "oath" does not require violence. But interpreting it may, as can be seen by some of the commentors asking why pacifists should not be rquired to take up arms. Thus, silly as it may look, wanting to add clarification is justifiable. Even though I am leery of practicing pacifists, as opposed to those who wish violence were not so prevalent and try to lessen it.

But will it be upheld? Well, how far would I get as a witness who tried to add to "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" something to the effect of "insofar as I am both able and allowed in responding to questions" on the stand?
5.2.2008 3:45pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Speaking of Lear, where's Major ________ de Coverley when you need him?
5.2.2008 4:06pm
Happyshooter:
As quoted, the "oath" does not require violence. But interpreting it may, as can be seen by some of the commentors asking why pacifists should not be rquired to take up arms.

See my case cite, above. Legally the oath does require taking up arms to defend the Constitution.
5.2.2008 4:15pm
Guest12345:
Oren: Also, what possible utility does this oath have in any real sense?

It allows the state, after the fact, to apply punishment. Or punishment enhancement. No one believes that such an oath will force someone to act in accordance with the oath, but it definitely clarifies for all parties involved what is expected. It's just a way of saying "if you're going to take this job, it entails representing the interests of the state." I don't see a problem with that.
5.2.2008 4:27pm
JBL:
Thanks to ObeliskToucher for providing the text of the oath.

I wouldn't sign it if I could reasonably avoid it.

1. I have no idea what it means. Seriously. I tried to parse it and couldn't come up with anything definite.

2. As far as I can tell, it is completely gratuitous. What does it have to do with anything? (Relevant factors are either direct job qualifications or criminal behavior. This oath elucidates neither.)

3. I have a general objection to making unnecessary oaths (or affirmations). I don't know as it's necessarily a slippery slope, but no good can come of it.

As an aside, doesn't this effectively prevent the system from hiring noncitizens?
5.2.2008 4:37pm
ithaqua (mail):
"As an aside, doesn't this effectively prevent the system from hiring noncitizens?"

An unexpected bonus :)
5.2.2008 4:47pm
PhanTom:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.


So the teacher is supposed to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. "Defend" is not defined within the terms of the oath, but its common and ordinary meaning certainly contemplates the use of violence. The oath also requires the teacher to indicate that she's taking it "without any mental reservation."

As a Quaker, she believes herself to be morally obligated not to use violence. As a result she cannot affirmatively answer both obligations as written. Her moral qualms about violence make it impossible to agree to defend (including violently) the Constitution without mental reservation.

Effectively, then, she was terminated (or denied) employment solely on the basis of her religious beliefs. That smacks of a 1st Amendment violation to me.

--PtM
5.2.2008 5:05pm
Happyshooter:
For a point of interest, neither my state nor federal bar admission oaths required 'defense' of the state or federal constitutions. I only have to support them.

However, my national gaurd oath, which I have since been relieved of by reason of discharge, not only required protection and defense of the constitutions, but I also had to call on God's help in doing so.
5.2.2008 5:13pm
whit:
"As a Quaker, she believes herself to be morally obligated not to use violence. As a result she cannot affirmatively answer both obligations as written. Her moral qualms about violence make it impossible to agree to defend (including violently) the Constitution without mental reservation"

rubbish. only if we accept your twisted version of defend.

ever heard of a DEFENSE attorney. he DEFENDS a client?

is he assumed to engage in violence?

get real
5.2.2008 5:26pm
whit:
"As an aside, doesn't this effectively prevent the system from hiring noncitizens?"

no. it effectively prevents those noncitizens that won't affirm that they will defend the constitution from working there. when in rome. you don't have to be a citizen to want to, or affirm that you will, defend the constitution where you live, temporariliy or not.

obviously, if you choose to live there, you are at least tacitly accepting the constitution. and if not, you can always leave and go where there is a constitution more to your liking
5.2.2008 5:28pm
whit:
"Frankly, I don't care whether a teacher or other public servant is a Communist sympathizer. So what? As long as they teach the curriculum and do their job, who cares what they think? What matters is their *actions*. Will they actually subvert the Constitution? I don't see how they can short of an armed insurrection, but you get my point. "

except the oath doesn't require that they THINK anything. see below.

"How about this as a compromise. Instead of a loyalty oath, you have them sign a statement that they agree they will never attempt to overthrow the gov't, and will do anything that will actually subvert the Constitution. This takes it out of the realm of the thought police, and focuses on actions, rather than beliefs. "

except the oath is not within the realm of thought police since it doesn't proscribe any beliefs or mandate any of them.

see below.

"Because even in America, we are free to believe whatever we like, no matter how wrong headed it is. See the other thread on creationism for proof of that."

great but irrelevant. the oath doesn't require them to BELIEVE anything.

i have to take an oath to defend my constitution and enforce (although i get to use a fair bit of discretion in non-enforcement with misdemeanors) my state's laws.

i do NOT have to believe they are good laws (many aren't). i don't have to BELIEVE anything.

i can believe, for instance (as i do), that non-violent convicted felons should not be stripped of their right to carry. my belief is in contravention of the law. the oath requires ACTION, not belief.

i can believe (and do) that many mandatory arrest laws (most mandatory arrest laws) are ridiculous, unjust, and hurt families. fine.

i can believe that marijuana should be decriminalized. again. fine

so, you are arguing a complete strawman. show me where the oath says the person working there has to BELIEVE anything.

and like i said, i personally chose not to sign this oath when i worked in california for the UC for a year, and took the consequences (i was not paid, but was allowed to volunteer). so, it's not like it didn't affect me personally.

regardless, the oath does not require belief of any sort.
5.2.2008 5:36pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
This new one saw the publicity the first one got. Can't lose bragging rights at the meeting about standing up to the system.

Good for the school, I hope they don't cave like the first one. Such oaths are constitutional and the U has an obligation to enforce them.

Don't like it, have the Quakers and Communists get the majority of the people of California to change the state constitution.

Or get another job. One that doesn't offend you.
5.2.2008 5:39pm
DG:
This may sound strange, but I dont like this oath because it seems to trivialize the oaths taken by the military, as well as civilian office holders. There is a real difference between someone teaching freshman english and someone risking their lives for their country, or engaged in a position of significant public trust. Sorry if that is offensive.
5.2.2008 5:47pm
wooga:

So the discussion got around to what do they mean by 'defend', and some people actually thought that, as a public school teacher, she should agree to take up arms and shoot people if the need arises or else she should be fired.

How can you forget the opening scene in Red Dawn, where the (presumably) liberal teacher goes outside to scold the stupid military for parachuting onto school property... If the teacher had taken a loyalty oath, he might have taken a few of those commies with him.

(Waldensian already got in a Red Dawn reference, but his was after the teacher was shot.)
5.2.2008 5:47pm
FC:
I thought religion in politics was supposed to be a bad thing.
5.2.2008 6:06pm
JBL:
Hmmm...would signing this oath prevent advocating an amendment to repeal certain portions of the Constitution?
5.2.2008 6:09pm
Dave N (mail):
therut, doesn't that defeat the entire point of the 2A? I thought we had runs so we can rebel against Bill Clinton when Hilary appoints him governor-of-AK-for-life.
Why would Bill want to be Governor of Alaska? Though I can imagine several reasons Hillary would want him there.
5.2.2008 6:12pm
whit:
"You must have done poorly in your Quakerism classes. Reporting for duty (with the idea of taking a non-combat position) resulted in problems for drafted WWII Quakers, which helped in forming of the AFSC."

sorry. did very well thank you.

the oath doesn't say you have to report for duty, or serve in the military. it says DEFEND the constitution

that only implies violence if you are presupposed (biased) to be pro-plaintiff.

again, defense attorneys don't use violence do they? yet, they defend
5.2.2008 6:17pm
Dave N (mail):
On a more serious note, I am having a hard time getting to excised either way on this issue. I agree that there is a qualitative difference between the oath a university instructor takes and one a member of the military does.

After all, Angela Davis has either signed the oath or someone in California forgot to ask her to do so. So I have a hard time thinking that the loyalty oath will somehow combat subversion.

On the other hand, I cannot fully understand why Gonaver just didn't sign something that will end up in her personnel file and nobody will give two tinker's damn about. I understand her religious objectionss and respect them. But I see nothing in the language of the oath that requires her to take up arms against anyone.
5.2.2008 6:24pm
W Phone Brown (mail):
I just got to this country a short time ago, got a job in California, and when I showed up to work they vanted me to take that loyalty oath. Vell, I did that for the last country I worked for, and in the end all I got was a broken arm out of it.

So here I am stuck as a physicist with good experience in delivering explosives by ICBM and I can't get a job. What are my options? Inshallah I find something.
5.2.2008 6:32pm
Forsooth And:
Three Separate Points Here:

1. So did a certain tenured Professor at Boalt Hall sign the oath? Many believe him to be just such a domestic enemy.

2. Inflexibly requiring a loyalty oath for teachers may be unwise or silly, but could it actually be unconstitutional? The constitution itself requires a similar oath of the President. Of course, it also flexibly (for Quakers) allows an affirmation instead. I do appreciate the invocation of Heller on loyalty oaths.

3. It's a good thing it's not an oath to support Darwinian evolution or you guys would require each and every Quaker and Seventh Day Adventist to sign it before they could get a student loan to major in a science field.
5.2.2008 6:33pm
Dave N (mail):
"to excised" should be "too excited"

Preview is my friend.
5.2.2008 7:00pm
SocratesAbroad (mail):

But does the janitor who cleans the floors of a public school need to prove his loyalty to the Constitution? Probably not. And neither does any public employee who isn't in the military.

Unfortunately, the State of CA disagrees and it has a perfectly valid reason for doing so:

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)

The state constitution is the legal basis for the state government authorizing, training, and mobilizing state employees under extraordinary circumstances.
By affirming the oath, state employees signal
1) that they are aware of their extra-professional role as disaster service workers
2) that they accept the legal authority of the state should it call on them to perform their role in 1)

But this has all been covered before.
5.2.2008 7:03pm
Oren:
Socrates, I don't think any pacifist has a problem being a called up to be a Disaster Service Worker. They have a problem with the other part of the oath that implies that they swear to take up arms.
5.2.2008 7:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
It allows the state, after the fact, to apply punishment. Or punishment enhancement. "

How so? You mean if she doesn't actually 'defend' the constitution, she can be fired?

whit: "except the oath doesn't require that they THINK anything."

But the whole point of the oath wasn't that any teacher would actually defend the constitution -- the point, as noted above, is that it was added to the CA state constitution in order to root out communists.

Now, I've asked,, but no one has found that this oath actually accomplished it's purpose, i.e., rooting out the bad guys. The purpose of the oath was to make sure that all public servants were good capitatlists who opposed communism. That, surely even to you, means that its about what you think.

So -- we have a law that whos purpose was to find and expel communists, and instead it results in the firing of a Quaker. Therefore, the law has no connection to its purpose, which means it's unconstitutional.

Now, the only way around that is for you argue that we should require all of our public servants to 'defend' the constitution when needed. Great! I'll all for it! So how do you implement the law? Got any ideas? Please give me one case ever where a public servant was ever required to 'defend' (however you wish to define defend, either violently or not) the constitution and failed to do so.

If not, then you have just a piece of paper that isn't worth the ink it's printed on, and it just becomes a 'feel good' action without any meaning. If you believe we should have such nonsensical laws, than too bad for you.
5.2.2008 7:12pm
Waldensian (mail):

(Waldensian already got in a Red Dawn reference, but his was after the teacher was shot.)

Not so! He gets offed right at the very beginning! We get at least 0.5 seconds of live teacher in my clip!!

Oh, that horrible day the Russians landed in Colorado -- that was a day they were glad their teachers had taken the oath! Otherwise they likely would have surrendered.

Jeez, people, remember your history. It was only the 1980s for crying out loud. I can't believe everyone has already forgotten about this.

Luckily our elected officials are keeping this incident in mind.
5.2.2008 7:42pm
Acksiom (mail) (www):
Randy R. --
But making anyone sign a document like this is a silly and pointless exercise. Sure, it makes people like you feel good, but it has no practical effect whatsoever.


Actually, yes it does; 1st, promises do in fact sometimes have practical effects on people's behavior, and, 2nd, as Guest12345 pointed out, it establishes the State's pretext for the initiation of force upon the violation of the contract.

PhanTom --
Effectively, then, she was terminated (or denied) employment solely on the basis of her religious beliefs.


Only if other people who refused to take the oath on non-religious grounds were not likewise terminated or denied employmnent. Just because her reasons were religious does not automatically make it a 1st Amendment violation, just as in the reverse the 1st Amendment cannot be used as a defense against criminal actions.

Also, Randy R., please note that legislation is allowed to have multiple intended purposes. And as I note above, giving pause to those considering actual active actions against the Constitution etc. is a valid purpose for this law.

I,e., The A purpose of the oath was to make sure that all public servants were good capitalists who opposed communism. That, surely even to you any rational person, means that its about what you think actual active actiony-type opposition.

There, fixed that for ya.
5.2.2008 7:45pm
Perseus (mail):
I dont like this oath because it seems to trivialize the oaths taken by the military, as well as civilian office holders. There is a real difference between someone teaching freshman english and someone risking their lives for their country, or engaged in a position of significant public trust. Sorry if that is offensive.

Having worked for one of the CSU campuses (and signed the oath), I am mildly offended. As someone who regularly teaches introduction to American government, I am entrusted with instructing the precious little ones in the very principles of government that our soldiers and public servants are defending. Without folks like me passing along those principles, our soldiers and public servants won't have much left to defend.

As for the efficacy of the oath, I confess that I am in rare (partial) agreement with Randy R. Based on my observations of the faculty, the oath, as currently enforced, has done little to weed out the Marxist/Communist sympathizers (who did not disappear simply because the Cold War ended).
5.2.2008 8:06pm
Joanne Jacobs (www):
In a previous court case, a California professor challenged the oath on religious grounds and lost. Apparently, it's constitutional. But does it make any sense? Subversives will lie. Loyal Americans will feel coerced.

This woman takes her oaths very seriously and felt she couldn't swear to defend the constitution without being able to specify that she wouldn't defend it with violence. She's a nitpicker but I have to respect her for it.

I had to swear to defend the U.S. and California constitutions to be a volunteer tutor in a public school.
5.2.2008 8:21pm
whit:
"But the whole point of the oath wasn't that any teacher would actually defend the constitution -- the point, as noted above, is that it was added to the CA state constitution in order to root out communists. "

gr00vy but irrelevant

it's not relevant WHY they decided to make the oath requirement. what's relevant is the oath itself.

this is a frequent debating tactic used by those who disagree with policy X. if you can't criticize the policy, criticize the intent of those who passed the policy. are you against medical mj, then say "the intent is across the board legalization". are you against enforcement of our illegal immigration? then argue the intent of those who enforce the laws is to penalize mexicans because of their race. etc. etc.

let's stop playing games.

the oath does not require you to believe anything that is against your conscience. it does not state you must believe X. THAT would be thought police. it is an affirmation that you will defend the FRIGGING CONSTITUTION which shouldn't be too much to ask of a GOVERNMENT employee.

"Now, I've asked,, but no one has found that this oath actually accomplished it's purpose, i.e., rooting out the bad guys. The purpose of the oath was to make sure that all public servants were good capitatlists who opposed communism. That, surely even to you, means that its about what you think."

again, totally irrelevant.

"So -- we have a law that whos purpose was to find and expel communists, and instead it results in the firing of a Quaker. Therefore, the law has no connection to its purpose, which means it's unconstitutional. "

no, only if we accept your bogus premise. you can fill in the logical fallacy here.

"Now, the only way around that is for you argue that we should require all of our public servants to 'defend' the constitution when needed. Great! I'll all for it! So how do you implement the law? Got any ideas? Please give me one case ever where a public servant was ever required to 'defend' (however you wish to define defend, either violently or not) the constitution and failed to do so.

If not, then you have just a piece of paper that isn't worth the ink it's printed on, and it just becomes a 'feel good' action without any meaning. If you believe we should have such nonsensical laws, than too bad for you."

again, irrelevant. do i need to explain to you that nonsensical and./or stupid laws are not necessarily unconstitutional (and contrarily some laws that would be just bitchen are in fact unconstitutional).

so, whether or not you AGREE with the oath being the law, or think it's stupid or nonsensical, that doesn't go towards saying it must be rescinded lest quakers who can't READ and UNDERSTAND that defend does NOT necessarily mean "with physical violence".

like i said, defense attorneys are charged with defending their clients' rights. no violence intended or required. ... although it would make some dry court proceedings more interesting.
5.2.2008 8:28pm
Mike G (mail):
I had to sign a loyalty oath in college to get a job at the Univ. of Kansas library. I always liked the idea that if I tried to overthrow the government, what they'd charge me with was breach of contract.
5.2.2008 8:39pm
whit:
"I had to sign a loyalty oath in college to get a job at the Univ. of Kansas library. I always liked the idea that if I tried to overthrow the government, what they'd charge me with was breach of contract"

kind of like those laws that make it illegal to joke about having a bomb at airline security gates.

"i have a bomb".
"sir, it's illegal to joke about such things"
"no, i'm serious. i have a bomb"
"oh, well never mind then."

:)
5.2.2008 8:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Actually, yes it does; 1st, promises do in fact sometimes have practical effects on people's behavior, and, 2nd, as Guest12345 pointed out, it establishes the State's pretext for the initiation of force upon the violation of the contract. "

Well, I asked for any practical or real effects of signing this oath, and you respond by saying, yes it does. But you don't give any examples. Further, I asked for any examples in shich a State actaully initiatied any force upon violation of the contract. AGain, nothing. This oath is just a thing of show business, nothing more.

So, okay, whit. The purpose of the oath has nothing to do with the oath itself. Since said teacher is not an attorney, please give me one example of how she can be expected to defend the constitution outside of the courtroom without violence. An actual real case is what I'm looking for -- if the state of CA hasn't been able to actually bring action against anyone in 50+ years based on this oath, one would think that it's pretty darn irrelevant as an oath.

Acksion: "Also, Randy R., please note that legislation is allowed to have multiple intended purposes. And as I note above, giving pause to those considering actual active actions against the Constitution etc. is a valid purpose for this law. "

If only we had forced Mohammand Atta sign this oath, 9/11 would never have happened!
5.2.2008 9:31pm
whit:
"So, okay, whit. The purpose of the oath has nothing to do with the oath itself."

i didn't say that. i said it was a sophomoric and irrelevant debating tactic used to try to evade the relevant issues.

" Since said teacher is not an attorney, please give me one example of how she can be expected to defend the constitution outside of the courtroom without violence. "

one easy way. if she sees somebody violating the constitution- call the police.

there. that's one way.

"An actual real case is what I'm looking for -- if the state of CA hasn't been able to actually bring action against anyone in 50+ years based on this oath, one would think that it's pretty darn irrelevant as an oath. "

and again, that's pretty darn irrelevant as to whether the state can lawfully and constitutionally require one to make the oath/affirmation. which... they can

you seem to have this belief that unless one can show some court case of somebody prosecuted for violating the oath, that the oath is not valid and/or legal and/or constitutional

fwiw, im a cop. i signed/swore an oath. i have never heard of a cop prosecuted for violating the oath either.

for breaking the penal code? yes.

so, is our oath similarly meaningless in your eyes? is it unconstitutional?

you are arguing irrelevant points. the point is the oath is perfectly constitutional. you don't LIKE the oath, so you bring up irrelevancies, since you can't argue the law
5.2.2008 10:00pm
GatoRat:
let's stop playing games.

Okay, get rid of the phony oath, then.

Such oaths are completely antithetical to the reasons upon which this country was founded.
5.2.2008 10:13pm
whit:
"Okay, get rid of the phony oath, then. "

that's an issue for the legislature.

"Such oaths are completely antithetical to the reasons upon which this country was founded"

as a matter of opinion, that may or may not be true. heck, imo TONS of perfectly constitutional yet sucky laws on the books today are similarly "antithetical to the reasons upon which this country is founded."

that doesn't mean they are unconstitutional.

can you make up your mind? have you finally conceded that the oath is in fact constitutional and that this quaker has a problem with reading comprehension, since defend does NOT imply "defend with physical violence"?

i'm well aware you are against it as bad policy.
5.2.2008 10:22pm
anonymous (mail):
I support loyalty oaths and I think teachers should be fired for not signing them.

If you're an American you have every right not to sign a loyalty oath but you have no right to teach our children.

If you want to teach and don't want to sign a loyalty oath, move to Cuba. Oh wait. They probably would throw you in prison there.

Get my point?
5.2.2008 11:24pm
Guest12345:
Further, I asked for any examples in shich a State actaully initiatied any force upon violation of the contract. AGain, nothing.


No you didn't.

However, I can think of two real obvious examples:

1) Wendy Gonaver.

2) Marianne Kearney-Brown
5.2.2008 11:34pm
BobDoyle (mail):
I am not sure where I come down on this because I see logic on both sides, but, Guest12345, neither Gonaver nor Kearney-Brown "violated" the contract, because they refused to sign the oath. Can't violate the oath if you do not sign it.
5.2.2008 11:53pm
Hoya:
I agree with PersonFromPorlock: What we need here is Major ____ de Coverley.

"Gimme teach."

"Give EVERYBODY teach."
5.2.2008 11:58pm
Guest12345:
BobDoyle, I would disagree, but that's ok. I'm not that hung up on it.
5.3.2008 1:09am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
In Florida and California, all the lawyers and judges take an Oath: to uphold the Constitution.

What this really means is thus:
if any lawyer or judge upholds disabled Americans Constitional court access accommodations rights under Tennessee v. Lane, the bar and bench will f__ the traitor beyond mortal comprehension and ruin their life.'

So, says the friends of "AnnTM"
5.3.2008 2:04am
traveler496:
This oath is at the least inanely worded. Also (notwhitstanding whit:-) it DOES require one to believe something - namely, that it's not unreasonable to be required to take the oath.

Consider Mary, who is fully on board with the supporting and defending and faith and allegiance stuff, but who (unfortunately for Mary) happens also to think that it's unreasonable of the state to require teachers to affirm such things, and who is only remotely entertaining the idea of signing the oath because otherwise she'd lose her job.

Well, it turns out that Mary *can't* honestly sign the oath, because the lamebrain oath has this lamebrain "...take this obligation freely,..." part which obviously couldn't apply in Mary's case - if someone like Mary ever *did* break down and sign the thing, it could only be because otherwise she'd be out a job.

So the lamebrain oath is giving Mary, an avid defender of and loyalist to her Constitutions whose only "crime" is a thought - namely, the thought that the lamebrain oath is in fact lame - the delightful choice of a) losing her job, or b) signing the oath dishonestly. [Or I suppose she could be a real rebel and do both a) and b), in either order.]

IMHO this is far from theoretical; I've gotta believe there are thousands of Marys out there, and that the vast majority of those who bothered to understand what they were signing elected dishonesty over loss of employment. But why should they be forced to make such an absurd choice?
5.3.2008 4:07am
whit:
"This oath is at the least inanely worded. Also (notwhitstanding whit:-) it DOES require one to believe something - namely, that it's not unreasonable to be required to take the oath. "

if you want to go there. ... it does not require one to believe that it's not unreasonable to be required to take the oath (or affirmation).

unless YOU believe that we never do things that we think are unreasonable, yet we have to do anyway. i most certainly think it is unreasonable to arrest a person convicted of felony non-violent theft for Felony possession of a firearm merely because they are a non-violent felon in possession of a firearm.

but i do it, becausei have to. belief is not the issue. so, you are STILL WRONG.

;p

why should they be forced? they are not forced. IF they want to work for that govt. they must do it. it's a choice, albeit one that limits their employment options.

i think this has devolved into angels on a head of a pin, at this point.
5.3.2008 4:58am
Randy R. (mail):
I'm not willing to concede that this oath is constitutional. It might be, but it might not be.

"one easy way. if she sees somebody violating the constitution- call the police."

Such as, what? Congress overstepping it's bounds? The president impinging upon the perogatives on the Congress? Congress passed a law a few years ago that banned the burning of the flag. This was unconstitutional, as SCOTUS ruled. Therefore, you must fire all public teachers in CA, because none of them, to my knowledge, notified the police about this law, and none did anything to protect the constitution.

The constitution is a definition of federal gov't, and it also places limits upon gov't. The entire Bill of Rights, for instance, is a limit upon gov't. If there is a violation of the constitution, it isn't a matter of calling the cops -- rather, it's a matter for the courts.

It's possible that a person wasn't read their Miranda rights, and that's a violation of the 4th Amendment. But is it really necessary to bring in a third party who has no knowledge of this? Is it not sufficient that the person harmed will call the cops? Why drag ALL public servants into this?

Do you see how meaningless this is? So far, no one has given even one real life example of a public servant being called to 'defend' the constititution, or any punishment inured for failing that.

As a libertarian, I do not like laws that are meaningless because they foster disrespect for all laws. And the point of this oath was to root our communists -- perhaps not anymore, but that is certainly a salient point. So the original point is no longer at issue, and there is no point to require the oath.

Part of living in a free country is the willingness to allow people who don't love living in a free country. I expect Cuba to require oaths from it's citizens, but I don't expect it from America. That's the difference.
5.3.2008 10:47am
traveler496:
whit,

You seem to miss my point. Mary certainly *can* sign the oath even though she thinks it's an unreasonable request, but she can't do so honestly. Confronted w/ that sorry document, Mary as I've described her must leave the room either a liar or unemployed, staunch Constitutional defender though she is. And again, I suspect there are thousands of real people who have found and will find themselves in Mary's shoes.

This is because the oath forces Mary to fundamentally misrepresent the circumstances under which she's signing the oath - specifically, and almost surrealistically IMO, it asks her to affirm not only that she'll defend etc. the Constitutions, but further that she's "...[taking] this obligation freely..." when in Mary's case that is manifestly and significantly not the case: The one and only reason Mary would ever sign is because she would otherwise lose her job, possibly her career.

Such forced misrepresentation of the circumstances under which one has entered into what is supposedly a weighty and solemn obligation isn't angels-on pinheads-stuff in my book. Rather it seems to aspire (albeit modestly) in the direction of Alice in Wonderland mixed w/ 1984.
5.3.2008 1:44pm
traveler496:

I really appreciate the discussion on this thread. It's been very helpful in clarifying my views (you may disagree:-). My summary reaction so far is that the oath itself would be significantly less bad (still probably bad on balance, but significantly less so) if it were edited as follows:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

The text struck out is either
o hopelessly vague if admittedly somewhat blood-stirring (I mean the support and defend against enemies part, which conjures up visions of desperate last stands in scattered mountain redoubts while reminding some of us that the U.S. is at bottom a precious and potentially fragile idea; but the last-standers would not need their oaths, and the reminder is best done by other means; and it truly is vague, to the point where even the Supreme Court appears to ignore it*);
o actively and gratuitously inane (I mean the "...take this obligation freely..." part, which quite unnecessarily forces even some of the staunchest Constitutional defenders into a lie-or-lose-my-job scenario; see my earlier blog postings for details)
o fluff (the rest of the struck-out text, which boils down to "...and I really mean it.")

What's left is just a pledge to abide by the Constitutions. I think I prefer a state in which such affirmations aren't required, but I'm still trying to cobble together a principled way to think about that.

*From Eugene's blog in a related thread:
"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.""
5.3.2008 10:53pm
TMSG:
I think the reason 'that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter' is part of the oath is to avoid the question of it being entered into under duress.
5.5.2008 3:50am
SFC MAC:
So, if little miss Quaker pacifist had her Constitutional rights violated, should she expect anyone to protect and defend her?

There's a brilliant line from the film "Romeo is Bleeding":


"I have no respect for pacifism. It's a morally bankrupt belief. Pacifists believe that they have the right not to kill, but others always die in the defence of that right"
5.5.2008 6:46pm
traveler496:

I think the reason 'that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter' is part of the oath is to avoid the question of it being entered into under duress.


TMSG,
But including the "..take this obligation freely.." part just makes no sense. Think it through: Either duress would invalidate the pledge, in which case it would of course invalidate any no-duress claim therein, or it wouldn't invalidate the pledge, in which case any reference to duress is just irrelevant. So either way, the "..freely.." claim has absolutely no positive value.

It does do quite definite harm, however. The harm is to those Constitutional supporters who object on principle to being asked to sign the affirmation. These folks must either lie outright about the conditions under which they signed (claiming to have signed "freely" when in fact they only signed under threat of firing); or, if they are extraordinarily honest and scrupulous, they can refuse to lie and thereby become one of the elite rewarded with the loss of their job - all to no good end (remember, these folks being confronted w/ this dilemma are among your true, blue Constitutional defenders - people whom the oath-perpetrators ostensibly love).

The fact that it does zero good but significant (and quite unnecessary) harm is why I earlier called this clause "actively and gratuitously inane." I still think that fits admirably. And, it makes me wonder: is California the anomaly, or does this kind of wackiness pervade other states' support-and-defend oaths?
5.6.2008 2:38am