Friday, May 02, 2008

An Update On Loyalty Oaths

I've written before about the loyalty oaths required of California public school teachers and professors. Now, another CSU professor has been fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. The linked LA Times story provides some interesting background information on the required oaths:

The loyalty oath was added to the state Constitution by voters in 1952 to root out communists in public jobs...

UC Berkeley was the first to impose a tough anti-communist loyalty oath in 1949 and fired 31 professors who refused to sign...

Efforts to remove the oath from the state Constitution have been unsuccessful, although the matter came under scrutiny in 1998 when a congressional subcommittee held a hearing on religious freedom...

(S)he (the fired teacher) would like to see the oath eliminated for all public employees except those who deal with sensitive information. She also would like an apology and a job next year.


This bias in this article against the loyalty oath is palpable. What's interesting is that the reader is never allowed to read the oath him/herself, to judge if it merits the kind of rending of garments that's occurring. I wonder why that is.

You can find it here, in Article 20, Section 3 of the California Constitution. It doesn't seem unduly burdensome to me. On the contrary, it seems entirely reasonable.

Do you want teachers or professors who cannot live up to its dictates?

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

15 comments:

allen (in Michigan) said...

As a thrifty conservative I'll cut-and-paste and edited version of what I posted on Joanne Jacob's blog:

While I'm uncomfortable with government making distinctions among citizens on any basis but a criminal conviction a refusal to affirm the belief that you have a personal responsibility to defend this nation overcomes that reticence. If that precludes you from working for a government agency then you've just made a sacrifice of conscience but not much of a sacrifice. There's no flag-draped coffin or artificial limbs in Wendy Gonaver's future so all the whining's about losing a cushy berth.

Rhymes With Right said...

Let's see -- this precludes anyone who holds religious scruples against military force or physical violence from employment. That means no Quakers, Mennonites, or Buddhists working in your school. It also precludes anyone not a US citizen from working there, either. Not to mention anyone who holds, along with Thomas Jefferson, that the citizens of a nation have the right to alter or abolish their form of government -- using physical violence if necessary.

In other words, no pacifists, foreigners, or patriots need apply for public employment in California!

On the other hand, various socialists and fascists can be employed, given that they embrace such unquestioning statism.

Darren said...

Did you read the oath? It talks about not seeking to overthrow the government through illegal means, not taking up arms to defend it.

I find your response 180 degrees from correct.

Rhymes With Right said...

Actually, Darren, it isn't 180 degrees from correct -- after all, Jefferson himself could not have signed such an oath because he believed that a revolution every generation or so was a good thing.

And given Washington's history of leading a revolutionary army from 1775-1783, I don't see how he could have possibly signed such an oath, either.

Remember -- the American Revolution was a decidedly ILLEGAL act carried off by taking up arms against the legitimate government of the 13 colonies! And the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights so that the people would have the means to do it again if the government established under the Constitution needed overthrowing.

We are a nation founded on the premise that THE PEOPLE have the FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT to take up arms against the government to overthrow it if they believe that to be necessary. I read the oath -- now you go back and read the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, my friend.

Darren said...

While I agree that the people have the right, or option, to forcibly remove a tyrannical government, it doesn't logically follow that any government should feel compelled to *hire*, on the taxpayer's dime, people committed to its destruction.

George, Tom, and the boys rightly took up arms against their rightful king, but they didn't accept the king's shilling whilst doing so.

allen (in Michigan) said...

> Let's see -- this precludes anyone who holds religious scruples against military force or physical violence from employment.

Not quite. It precludes anyone who holds religious scruples against military force or physical violence from employment in the public sector.

> It also precludes anyone not a US citizen from working there, either.

How do you figure?

> Not to mention anyone who holds, along with Thomas Jefferson, that the citizens of a nation have the right to alter or abolish their form of government -- using physical violence if necessary.

We fought a war about just that subject although the specific political issue is often presented as the reason for the war rather then the larger constitutional issue which actually precipitated the war. That would be the Civil War in case I'm being too oblique. As that war proved when violence is the tool you've chosen to effect political change then you've opened the door to the use of violence by your opponents.

Also, as you correctly point out, "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends" is found in the Declaration of Independence. As such, it's a nice rationalization but hardly carries the force of law and, it's redundent.

The Constitution, a somewhat more thoughtful document, takes care of the problem neatly by institutionalizing revolution. You don't like the currently constituted government? No problemo! Wait a year or two or six and vote the silly bustards out and stick a new, temporary king or viceroy in the old one's place. Not good enough for you? Too effin' bad. Grow up and accept the fact that you don't always get what you want even if you want it really, really bad.

Rhymes With Right said...

Well, then, let's see if we can sum this up.

1) If you hold the wrong religious beliefs, you can't work in the public sector in California -- and you are OK with that.

2) If you are a foreigner (who quite reasonably may not be able to pledge to defend the Constitution and the United States), you cannot work in the public sector in the state of California -- and you are OK with that.

3) If you hold to the same principles as enunciated by our Founding Fathers, you cannot work in the public sector in California -- and you are OK with that.

Sounds to me like the government of the state of California NEEDS TO BE OVERTHROWN based upon its failure to abide by fundamental American principles of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech -- and that you folks would be on the wrong side of that fight.

Tell me -- do you believe in these principles enough to urge your colleagues in the Social Studies Department to rip that subversive Declaration of Independence thingy out of their text books so that tier kids don't get exposed to ideas contrary to this silly oath you support?

Darren said...

I didn't see the Founding Fathers offering command of the army to Benedict Arnold after the war. I didn't see them offer up some national reconciliation plan to the (royal) Loyalists after the war. I think they were just fine with having only people loyal to the government work in that new government.

So, regarding your points above:
1. I don't understand your point about holding the wrong religious beliefs. Please clarify, preferably by identifying the section of the oath that is objectionable on this point.
2. If a foreigner wants to take the shilling of the California taxpayer, they should be loyal to the California government and not seek its overthrow. If they cannot do that--yes, I'm quite happy excluding them from California public service.
3. As identified above, I don't think your Founding Fathers argument holds up. If you want to fight the government, like they did, you should not also be on the payroll of that government.

Rhymes With Right said...

I'll answer your question.

1) The two most recently fired individuals were unwilling to sign the oath because, as Quakers, they could not pledge to defend the Constitution because of their belief in non-violence.

2) As for foreigners, this one could (and should) be troubling -- "bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California" -- as it seems to require that they place loyalty to the US above loyalty to their own homeland.

3) I don't want to fight the government -- but I do advocate the position that it is morally justifiable to overthrow the government of the United States when and if it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, namely the protection of our rights. As such, I don't believe I could legitimately take the oath as written, due to my belief in the principles contained in the Declaration of Independence. After all, that oath makes no distinction between the advocacy of the theoretical propriety of overthrowing the government (my position, and Jefferson's) and the actual advocacy of immediate action to overthrow the government.

There is also the absurdity of the oath itself -- those most likely to seek to overthrow the government are hardly likely to have scruples against signing such an oath in order to infiltrate the government they seek to overthrow. I can't imagine Mohammad Atta and his fellow terrorist would have been deterred by an oath disclaiming terrorist affiliations.

Rhymes With Right said...

By the way, Darren -- since when does the state of California pay its employees in shillings?

Darren said...

We're going in circles now. I say that "defending" doesn't necessarily mean they have to take up arms, and you say their religion doesn't allow them to fight. Circle.

No one is saying that people can't hold certain views. The oath says that people who hold certain views cannot get a job paid for out of the people's (public) treasury. Those views, of course, are the destruction of the government that would pay them. No one is *entitled* to a job in the government.

I agree completely with the right to replace a government grown tyrannical. Doesn't mean you're entitled to a job in that government while you're fighting to overthrow it, though.

Rhymes With Right said...

In other words, Darren, you must have lied when you signed the oath if you truly believe that there is a theoretical right to overthrow even the US government (or California government) if it becomes destructive of the rights of its citizenry -- as I would argue California has done by establishing this oath.

And what you are effectively arguing is that people with certain religious views cannot hold public employment -- which would seem to contradict the First Amendment by establishing certain religious views as orthodox and others as subject to legal disabilities imposed by the government.

And while I agree with you that no one is, strictly speaking, "entitled" to a government job, I would argue the contrary as well -- freedom of speech, press, association and conscience are meaningless if the government may impose legal disabilities upon those who exercise those rights to espouse disfavored points of view, as that oath does.

And interestingly enough, Darren, NONE OF THE EXAMPLES I'VE GIVEN constitutes a case of someone being denied a government job while they are fighting to overthrow the government -- and yet you have indicated that you believe in denying public employment in each of those cases if the individual in question refuses to take an oath that violates their conscience, so your constant return to that strawman argument is somewhat disingenuous. And given the reality that the oath is currently being used to prevent the employment of Christian pacifists, not political dissidents, you need to address that point instead.

Darren said...

Honestly, I don't understand your point at all. But calling me a liar? You're *way* out of bounds.

This discussion ends now, pending your apology on that point.

Rhymes With Right said...

I apologize for the less than diplomatic phrasing of my point. On re-reading them, my words take on a coloration I did not intend. I think our previous dealings should be sufficient to tell you that I do, in fact, hold you in high esteem.

That said, I don't see how anyone who believes in the right of the people to overthrow the government when it becomes destructive of the liberties it was created to protect -- as you say you do -- can take an oath stating unconditionally that they do not advocate the overthrow of the government. The position you agree with (the right to overthrow the government in certain situations) appears to be the very position the oath requires you to disavow. Maybe you can square that in your mind, but I certainly cannot do so without a BIG mental reservation, which the oath requires me to disavow.

Similarly, you still seem unwilling to consider that the practical application of that oath today is not to save the state or nation from any foreign or domestic threat, but instead to deprive of public employment members of pacifist religious sects who cannot take an oath to defend the United States or the state of California free from the mental reservation that they cannot take up arms to do so. As such, this would clearly be an undue burden upon the free exercise of their religion -- unless you want to argue that Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other religious pacifists constitute a threat to our collective security!

There is, of course, also the utter absurdity of such an oath in the first place. After all, what individual who is intent upon ACTUALLY undermining or overthrowing the government from within is going to be deterred by a requirement that they take an oath against overthrowing the government?

Darren said...

Thank you.

Believing in having the right to replace a government does not mean that you believe that the current government should be overthrown. Individuals who want to overthrow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, should not take the people's money in pay.

People may lie all the time, but that's not a reason not to have oaths. Perjury is a genuine offense. How many documents do you sign that state something to the effect of "the information contained herein is correct to the best of my knowledge"? You signed one such form some time before April 15th, but the existence of tax cheats isn't cause for removing the "oath".

You and I disagree on whether the oath is objectively objectionable to JW's, Quakers, etc. I argue that *objectively* it is not, as it does not require actual violence. Additionally, those groups (and others) were still required to serve in WWII, despite their pacifist claims. Many became medics. To summarize on this point, I don't find the oath to be an impediment to the service of pacifists. It's also not an impediment to liars, but that's not a reason to get rid of it.