McCarthyism Rears its Head

So. I signed.

For the five of you who regularly read this blog, refer back to yesterday’s post. Basically, any civil or public employee in the state of California must, by state law, sign the following “Loyalty 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.”

What’s my objection? Are you kidding me?

A loyalty oath? Where the hell are we living now, Communist China?! What’s next? “I have not now, nor have I ever been a member of…”

How about that “morally straight” bit in the Boy Scout oath? Will that slip into my HR paperwork sometime soon too?

I have a moral issue with signing something that requires, under thread of up to 14 years imprisonment, me to defend a constitution that is currently denying my human rights.

I’m gay. I can’t legally marry.

Oh wait. I did get legally married last summer, but only because we took advantage of a legal window. Those not lucky enough to do so are screwed. And if you don’t think filling out the government’s tax forms are hellish because of that, think again. Do I check “Married” or “Single?” But that’s an issue for a different day.

I met with the VP of HR today who insisted that this “comes from the state.” Funny thing is, I’ve worked for two other public institutions before, a Cal STATE U and another Community College. Neither of them put forward this form for me to sign – despite that requirement in the state constitution.

Sigh.

But, as I said, high morals don’t pay the mortgage. I’ve called my union rep, I’ve contacted Lambda Legal.

I’ve signed the effing form.

I signed it with the following objection noted on it (and that was signed by the VP of HR):

“Signed under protest – moral objection. Only signed as condition of employment.” (Keep in mind I still have a half-cast on my arm, so can’t really write a novel on the thing.)

I’m fairly certain that my civil rights (as in Civil Rights Act of 1964) have been trashed here. If I objected on religious grounds I’d have some legal footing, but because I’m objecting on moral grounds I’m in a bit of a morass of grey. How funny is that? Religious objection: OK. Moral? Not so much.

The more I think and write in this the angrier I get.

What am I looking for? I don’t want millions. I don’t want to own the state of CA (who the hell would?). I don’t want publicity. I want that damned form taken out.

My compromise is that I have modified an addendum filed by a UC Berkely professor and printed it to submit to HR. It follows:

ADDENDUM

It is my belief that the State Oath of Allegiance is a disgraceful document and its requirement deeply disturbs my conscience.  Its history and motivation are authoritarian, antidemocratic, totalitarian, fascist, and antisocial. Under no circumstances would I have accepted its condition for employment had I been informed in advance.  Finally, it seems to me a matter of logic that the Oath is self-contradictory in that it is inconsistent with numerous “inalienable” rights expressly guaranteed in both the California and United States Constitutions.

1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND THE OATH

The text of the Oath and its requirement for employment at [Edited] College are profoundly disturbing to my conscience.  I take them as an affront to the rights of every citizen and antithetical to the principle of academic freedom.  They must be viewed in the context of the long and ignominious history of the various loyalty oaths and “red scares,” the wartime internment of Japanese-American citizens, and other attacks on citizens’ rights that stain with everlasting shame both Constitutions to which so many people today remain required to swear loyalty

No less than the threat of a perjury charge “punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not less than one nor more than 14 years” under Section 3108 of the California Government Code looms over anyone whose scruples interfere with his or her willingness to “take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Simultaneously, my livelihood depends on my affixing my signature to ideas repugnant to me, and, had I been informed in advance of this requirement, I would have absolutely never considered employment with the aforementioned institution, or indeed, any California institution requiring this form.

It is a principle of democracy and of human freedom that the state derives its legitimacy from the population, and that it is granted power only to that extent.  The converse—that citizens be granted full rights only by proclaiming loyalty to state power—is, I think it is clear, diametrically opposed to the whole of the democratic tradition.  The definition of fascism is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation . . . above the individual” (Merriam-Webster 1998). Coercion not only of behavior but also of beliefs through the threat of imprisonment or other forms of state violence is an expression of the totalitarian mentality at its most extreme.

I feel the Oath pits me against an ominous and pernicious category of unnamed, undefined “domestic enemies.”  The implication that I place myself into this category by resisting the Oath is unmistakable to me.  This Oath and its predecessors—and its analogues in societies unflattering for ours even to be compared—have been very effective at dividing the populace and intimidating and isolating conscientious, honest, law-abiding dissidents.

Consequently I strongly believe that the Oath articulates an explicitly fascist, explicitly antisocial vision.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES AND THE OATH

Article I of the Constitution of California guarantees the following: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights.  Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy” (Section 1).  “Every person may freely speak . . . his or her sentiments on all subjects. . . .”  This guarantee necessarily includes the right freely to hold beliefs (Section 2). “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed,” obviously including my deep moral beliefs as described in this Addendum, cited as a “liberty of conscience” (Section 4).  “A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing . . . employment because of sex, race, creed, color, or national or ethnic origin” (Section 8).  It is in my view, then, clear that the Oath and its requirement deny me my freedom, attempt to deprive me of property and livelihood, violate my privacy, attempt to legislate my beliefs under threat of imprisonment, and threaten to deny me employment on the basis of creed, thus repeatedly and directly violating, to the letter, numerous specific rights guaranteed by the same document that contains the text of the Oath (Article XX, Section 3).

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, of course, guarantees every citizen’s right to freedom of “religion,” again including the beliefs discussed above, and “freedom of speech,” obviously circumscribing freedom of opinion.  It is in my view obvious that the Oath violates these rights.

My objection to the oath is on moral grounds. I cannot in good conscience swear to support and defend a constitution which continues to discriminate against a portion of the population. By declaring gay marriages “equal but separate” under the law, the Supreme Court of California has legalized discrimination, a violation of both Article I of the US Constitution, and Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states (in part): “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Finally, it must be noted—must be insisted—that human rights are intrinsic and inalienable; they are emphatically not granted by governments through constitutions or any other means.  To repeat, our political ideal is the precise opposite: governments are granted any and all rights and power by the assent of the governed.  Nonetheless, in my opinion the Oath contradicts itself in its own terms as it cannot be consistent with rights explicitly guaranteed by both constitutions which it apparently seeks to protect.

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2 Comments on “McCarthyism Rears its Head”

  1. gonovelgo says:

    I don’t live in the USA (right now), but I’ve always been dubious about these things. They seem to be a distinctly American phenomenon, at least if we’re talking about ‘the West’, yet at the same time they clash with the principles that America was supposedly founded on.

    McCarthyism, indeed!

  2. Cags says:

    Since you haven’t updated on GW, I’m stalking you here. 😉

    “Basically, any civil or public employee in the state of California must, by state law, sign the following “Loyalty Oath:” ”

    “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion..”

    Umm…aren’t those two statements mutually exclusive? I mean how can you write an oath and then tell people they have no choice but to sign it? Ok, I guess you have a choice not to do the kind of work you do and then you don’t have to but, surely denying someone the right to earn their livlihood in the manner most appropriate for their skill set is just wrong. Morally… ah!

    And you’ve already broken the oath by saying you signed under moral objection… and yet… and yet… they’re happy to employ you anyway with that caveat? Do they not realise what you’ve just done? Effectively, by accepting your objection as a matter of record, they’ve just made that oath not worth the paper it’s printed on, much less the toilet paper it will one day become.

    Go Pol! I’m glad we don’t have a constitution here.
    Move to the UK. We let people marry whom the hell they like and actually have laws protecting against discrimination for sexual orientation. Of course you get taxed to death, it rains about 75% of the time, you can’t blow your nose without some CCTV camera capturing it for posterity, you get fined and a criminal record for leaving your trash out on the wrong day and if you’re sick – really, really sick – you better hope your local health trust value your life over the cost of the drugs/treatment you need, but… it’s a small price to pay for… ah… umm!

    Take care. xx