Freedom isn’t free

And somehow it’s so often the most honorable among us who end up paying the price.

Quaker teacher fired for changing loyalty oath:

Kearney-Brown said she could not sign an oath that, to her, suggested she was agreeing to take up arms in defense of the country. “I honor the Constitution, and I support the Constitution,” she said. “But I want it on record that I defend it nonviolently.” The trouble began Jan. 17, a little more than a week after she started teaching at the Hayward campus. Filling out her paperwork, she drew an asterisk on the oath next to the word “defend.” She wrote: “As long as it doesn’t require violence.” The secretary showed the amended oath to a supervisor, who said it was unacceptable, Kearney-Brown recalled. Shortly after receiving her first paycheck, Kearney-Brown was told to come back and sign the oath. This time, Kearney-Brown inserted “nonviolently,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.” That’s when the university sought legal advice. “Based on the advice of counsel, we cannot permit attachments or addenda that are incompatible and inconsistent with the oath,” the campus’ human resources manager, JoAnne Hill, wrote to Kearney-Brown. She cited a 1968 case called Smith vs. County Engineer of San Diego. In that suit, a state appellate court ruled that a man being considered for public employment could not amend the oath to declare: his “supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ Whom Almighty God has appointed ruler of Nations, and expressing my dissent from the failure of the Constitution to recognize Christ and to acknowledge the Divine institution of civil government.” The court called it “a gratuitous injection of the applicant’s religious beliefs into the governmental process.”

I’m not even a lawyer, and I can see three or four ways to distinguish Smith from Kearney-Brown’s case. It seems to me that whatever counsel they consulted mistook the client he or she was working for. The responsibility of a lawyer for  the UC system is to the system (or possibly to the regents or the local campus head), not to provide after-the-fact cover for a mid-level supervisor’s decision. And yes, I hope they get properly stomped.


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