Tag Archives: McCarthyism

Loyalty Oaths are SO 1950s

One of the most popular stories at SFGate today is about the Quaker who was fired from her job at CSU Hayward East Bay for changing the text of the required loyalty oath that all California public employees must sign as a condition of employment:

“I don’t think it was fair at all,” said Kearney-Brown. “All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don’t care if I meant it, and it didn’t seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn’t matter. Nothing.”

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before – but had modified it each time….

Each time, when 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.

The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said.

But Cal State East Bay wouldn’t, and she was fired on Thursday.

Unless we believe that Quakers are somehow America’s biggest threat, this should be seen as a totally ridiculous and anachronistic injustice. The loyalty oath – sometimes called the “Levering Oath” after the Republican legislator who rammed it through the state legislature in 1949-50 – was a particularly pernicious and pointless instance of McCarthyite hysteria. Republican Governor Earl Warren had initially opposed the oath, but when UC President Robert Sproul imposed the oath and fired 31 tenured professors who refused to sign it on grounds of academic freedom, Warren decided to support the oath to secure his 1950 reelection bid.

In short, the oath was created to further the political ambitions of Levering, Warren and Sproul. It did nothing to help California or the nation fight the Cold War, created deep and lasting divisions at UC, and is today seen as a rather silly piece of paper that folks sign as part of the usual fat packet of paper public workers have to sign upon accepting employment.

It’s been 59 years since the oath was created and 19 years since the Berlin Wall fell. Must we lose more qualified, dedicated, longtime teachers to this relic of the past? I know California legislators have better things to do, but if any of you politicians who are reading this site – and I know you’re out there – want to write a law to repeal this waste of paper, it would be welcome.