California’s Thomas More Pledge: Cal State Fires College Instructor for Refusing to Sign Loyalty Oath

Wendy Gonaver is a Quaker from Pennsylvania and a lifelong pacifist as well as an instructor in American studies. She was ready to start teaching at Cal State when officials presented her a loyalty pledge to to “defend” the U.S. and California constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It is precisely the type of free speech and free exercise issue that Gonaver expected to teach about. She will not have the chance. When she declined the pledge, she was told that she could not teach in any public school in the state. It is the Cal State version of the Thomas More oath for teachers.

California has required the pledge since 1952 — an effort to root out communists. It now primarily protects our children from being taught by pacifists and Quakers.
Notably, Gonaver, 38, offered a compromise: She offered to sign the pledge with an attached notation explaining her deep-seated political and religious beliefs. That is allowed in other institutions, but not at Cal State (Fullerton), which appears unwilling to take even a modest step to accommodate good-faith views.

Gonaver is not the first to be given Cal State’s Thomas More pledge: pledge or be terminated.
In February, math teacher Marianne Kearney-Brown simply wrote in the word “nonviolently” on the pledge — and was fired. She is also a Quaker. (She was later re-hired).

It is difficult to see how Cal State can not only impose such an uncompromising position but treat teachers in such different ways. Gonaver could do a great deal of good by taking this one to court.

For the full story, click here.

16 thoughts on “California’s Thomas More Pledge: Cal State Fires College Instructor for Refusing to Sign Loyalty Oath”

  1. Somethings you just never forget… 🙂

    It’s an interesting idea, rafflaw, isn’t it?

    Now, if you’ll all raise your right hands and repeat after me,
    I,______, do solemnly swear…

  2. Hey Patty C.

    Loved your clip. I hadn’t pictured dick as Barney until now! He does fancy rides through Washington with sirens blaring! Andy Griffin is cheney-bush’s fixer. That’s quite the image.



  3. Patty C,
    I really enjoyed the trip back in time with Barney and Gomer. I wonder if we could do a “citizens arrest” on our appointed President?

  4. ‘Hooray!’

    You’re quite welcome, but the inspiration was all Jill.

    Happy Cinco de Mayo – early.

  5. Patty: I’m still rolling about the Shazam! Video That was quite funny. You dementia is swift. Thanks for the laugh. That was some trip from Thomas More to Gomer !!

  6. Jill- Shazam!

    Mespo – Yeah, I really ‘get’ how you can hardly drag yourself out of bed in the morning only to face another day of jujubes and popcorn between your teeth.

    p.s. I enjoyed the clip – now I have to watch the movie sometime.

  7. It seems odd for a university to demand that faculty sign such an oath. “Defend,” as it was used in the oath, came across to me as ARMED defense more than anything else. A bit over the top, to say the least. I hope Ms. Gonaver will take this to court as well.

  8. thanks for that dialogue quote Mespo. Apparently you, JT, and I are MFAS fans. (I even have that little orange/red paperback).

  9. On the other hand–if it means exactly what it says perhaps every citizen should demand one to sign and use that authority to make a citizen’s arrest at the whitehouse!

  10. My friend works at the university in my town. She was asked to sign a similar loyalty oath as were many other employees. As jobs are scarce and she has two children to feed, she signed it. I find this demand unjust and offensive to conscience. I am at a loss to understand what it really means and how it would be enforced.

  11. To All:

    As usual, JT got me thinking about why I do what I do and the inspirations of my youth:

    Here is the classic confrontation in “A Man for All Seasons,” between Paul Scofield, playing Sir Thomas More, and Leo McKern, playing Prosecutor Thos. Cromwell, on the precise issue here:

    “Cromwell: Let us consider now the circumstances
    of the prisoner’s silence.
    The oath was put to loyal subjects
    all over the country who all declared…

    …His Grace’s title to be just and good!

    But when it came to the prisoner,
    he refused!

    He calls this “silence.”

    Yet, is there a man in this court….

    Is there a man in this country…

    …who does not know
    Sir Thomas More’s opinion of this title?

    Yet, how can this be?

    Because this silence betokened…

    …nay, this silence was not silence at all,
    but most eloquent denial!

    More: Not so.

    Not so, Master Secretary.

    The maxim of the law is,
    “Silence gives consent.”

    If, therefore, you wish to construe
    what my silence betokened…

    …you must construe that I consented,
    not that I denied.

    Cromwell: Is that in fact what the world
    construes from it?

    Do you pretend that is what you wish
    the world to construe from it?

    More: The world must construe
    according to its wits.

    This court must construe
    according to the law.”

    For the YouTube version of this masterful depiction of the clash between conscience and power* see:

    * A masterful depiction of law as policy for good versus law as mask for power as well.

  12. I have to agree with “Deeply Worried” that I would have thought someone would have challenged this “oath” by now. Or has it been in limbo until the dark days of Bush descended upon us and they and their followers decided to mandate it again? I will have to check into this oath and see if has been used consistently since 1952.

  13. no bad idea goes unpraised by “Dunder”!

    I thought we left loyalty oaths behind with Joe McCarthy? Surely someone has taken this to the 9th Circuit before…..

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