So many questions flooded my mind. Who would decide my loyalty? Who would decide what defined protecting and upholding the Constitution? Who is to say that my actions, covering politics in the City of Los Angeles is a violation of this oath? I am just driving students to science fairs, maybe this is an overreaction on my part? Could I subvert it in some way? Could I subvert it by educating the students to find truth through science? To play to their rational and objective scientific minds to put an end to all of this? Yet, what will I teach the students by going along with an oath that violates my rights as an American?
A few years ago, a teacher at California State University, Fullerton was fired for not wanting to sign this very same oath on the basis of religious belief. In 2007, Wendy Gonaver, a newly hired faculty member, refused to sign without an additional statement added to the oath, saying that as a Quaker, a religious minority group that requires its members to follow a path of pacifism, she would not turn to violence. She pointed to the fact that the word “defend” insinuated a taking of arms. She was fired from her job just days before she was to begin teaching.
In 2008, a California bill known as SB 1322 was passed by both houses and sent to then Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. SB 1322 would have removed this loyalty oath requirement from the job application packet. The legislation also clearly stated that this loyalty oath was nothing more than a product of the nation’s obsession with Communist infiltrators. The authors of the bill made clear the oath was a violation of the United States Bill of Rights by saying, “These statutes are inconsistent with constitutional protections of free speech, political affiliation, and the right to remain silent.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long held a stance against the use of these oaths and it urged the governor to sign the bill, going so far as to create a petition. Even Gonaver wrote an open letter to Schwarzenegger. He vetoed the bill.
Again, I stare at this application. It says in emphasis that I should, “read carefully” what is written. I think of counter arguments, well, even our President is required to take an oath of office, so why not me?
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Ironically, the President is required to swear an oath that is far more lenient than the oath required of a lowly van driving science teacher, driving her students from one science fair to another, hoping to create a spark in the minds of still impressionable inner city youth.
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 will 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.
All the President is required to do is serve under the best of his ability. Yet the State of California demands its employees to go above and beyond the requirements for the most powerful person in the country. The President can easily argue, well I tried my best. I cannot. The President is not even required to take the oath of office without mental reservation. Even President Obama is allowed to have doubts.
What is the evolution of human kind but evolution of thought and understanding. When will we evolve beyond our reptilian biological programming? When will we stop fearing what we do not understand, and what we have done so little to attempt to understand? When will we realize that science tell us we are all interconnected? Humans have a unique gift, and that is our ability to question our own biological blueprints. We create ethical standards and philosophies. It is about time that we stopped playing into fear. Let us evolve beyond our wild instincts.
Democracy is imperfect, but it promotes something truly great: a place where all can have a say in what happens and the ability to say and do within our inalienable rights, without fear of repercussion. Loyalty oaths banish our ability to express ourselves freely. Loyalty oaths suffocate democracy. Our flag is striped with red and white, symbolic of the red and white blood cells that flow through our body to keep us alive and to defend us from invaders. These red and white stripes represent democracy as the life blood of our people. Loyalty oaths are nothing more than cancer cells, a mutated cell that in the beginning followed a healthy path to sustain life but now run rampant, replicating without any checks and balances, ultimately destroying democracy’s life.
It is clear where this journalist, this scientist, this American, and this human being, stands on the issue. The loyalty oath is still missing my name and signature and I am no less conflicted than before I began writing this piece. Is this piece enough of a protest? Will I put my name or will I put someone else’s name? Will I write below my name that I sign this oath so as to do nothing more than bypass a useless hurdle that stands between me and a unique opportunity and that despite my name being there, I refuse to live by this oath? Or will I leave it blank and cast my die with the rest of those who dissented?