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.
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