Public Schools

Hastings, NE Public School District Revives Loyalty Oaths


If you thought some of the stupidest manifestations of the McCarthy era were dead and buried, reconsider. The American Civil Liberties Union had to tell the college district of Hastings, Nebraska, it should not require teachers \”to pledge that they'll teach students to like america.\”

The Hastings school district's requirement is suspiciously like the \”loyalty oaths\” that Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) promoted during the 1950s. The final Court eventually ruled that employees couldn't be required to sign a loyalty oath, but a situation law in Nebraska enacted within the 1950s remains and serves as the foundation for the Hastings school district's request.

The Nebraska ACLU legal director, Amy Miller, noted that Hastings might be hit having a civil rights lawsuit if it went forward using the loyalty oaths. School superintendent Craig Kautz, however, said the school district's action was legal which at least one of the two loyalty oaths around the books in Nebraska was still being valid.

\”As a public school, we can not selectively decide what laws we follow and which ones we don't,\” Kautz explained. \”I just hope we do not get dragged into something that's above our level.\”

Still burdened with McCarthy-era laws, Nebraska's two loyalty laws are these:

  • One requires all public school teachers to pledge that they will \”instill students with an knowledge of the U.S. and Nebraska Constitution, a knowledge and history of the nation and the sacrifices designed to achieve its 'present greatness,' an appreciation and devotion to the polices that made America the 'finest country on the planet to live,' and opposition to any or all groups and activities that would destroy the present form of government.\”
  • The other that needs public servants, presumably more than teachers, \”to disavow any ties to political parties that advocate the violent overthrow from the government.\”

If you're surprised by Nebraska, you might be more surprised to find a loyalty oath requirement in California mandated through the state constitution. The California loyalty oath text reads as follows:

\”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, which i will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the us and the Constitution from 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 where I'm about to enter.\”

Should we ignore Hastings and ignore California for imposing loyalty oaths? Are they simply meaningless requirements that government employees (and volunteers!) can sign without a second thought? As politics within this country has become more divisive and antagonistic toward people who hold different beliefs, loyalty oaths aren't inconsequential and meaningless. Remember Texas state legislator Molly White, a Republican, who demanded that Muslims who might visit her office have a loyalty oath to renounce Islamic terrorism and to announce allegiance to America and its laws? One can only imagine that within the revival of nativism in American politics, there is a slice from the American electorate that may find loyalty oaths a beautiful idea.

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