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Old 08-31-2018, 05:01 AM
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An atheist claiming a religious exemption to the California Oath of Office?

I am a secular humanist who was just offered a public-sector job in California. One of the pre-employment papers I am required to sign is a short version of the California oath of office:

Quote:
“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 take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.
By California law, I cannot get paid unless I sign this oath, and falsely signing it is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison. SB 115 (2009) sought to create a religious exemption to this law after some Quakers were fired for refusing to sign it. Then Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it, calling it redundant, but nonetheless the bottom of the document I was asked to sign claims a religious exemption is allowed.

I understand this is just a silly formality left over from McCarthyism, but I take my oaths pretty seriously. I definitely have reservations to swearing this oath, largely motivated by my "religious" beliefs:

1) The California Constitution, in its preamble, already violates the principle of separation of church and state: "...grateful to Almighty God...". I strongly object to this phrasing and would absolutely refuse to support or defend it.

2) The US Constitution is currently under threat of revision by an orchestrated corruption between the religious right, corrupt capitalists, and possible Russians. In the very near future we may see it perverted against the public interest. I object on the grounds that my loyalty as a public servant should be to the American people, not a political document held hostage by an antiquated and flawed electoral system and at the mercy of undemocratic top-down revisionism, either through a rigged Supreme Court or a coalition of state Republican parties; Roe v Wade is the one currently making the rounds, but certainly other parts are similarly at risk (citizenship, etc.). The Constitution may be the supreme law, but law itself should be subservient to the people and often is not.

These are sincerely held beliefs in accordance with my "religious" philosophy -- that individuals and governments alike should act in the common good, guided by reason and learning, not faith and superstition -- but would the State of California recognize secular humanism as a "religion"? Are there any other exemptions I can lawfully utilize to avoid signing this oath?
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:17 AM
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The words "(or affirm)" are right there in it. That's your exemption. You affirm instead of swear.
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Old 08-31-2018, 06:13 AM
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but would the State of California recognize secular humanism as a "religion"?
I doubt it but you'd need to research what "religion' means in the US.

2 points. The preamble to legislation isn't actually part of the act, that wiffly waffly preamble isn't something you'll be affirming to uphold, etc.

Any revision you are worried about may never happen. Can you affirm to uphold what it says on the day you affirm?
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Old 08-31-2018, 06:43 AM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is offline
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I'm going to advise you the same way I'd advise county clerks who refuse to issue certain marriage certificates:

If you can't, in good conscience, do the job, don't accept the job. You feel that the foundational documents of the government you would be working for are so flawed that you cannot promise to support them. Seems to me that a public sector job is not for you.
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Old 08-31-2018, 07:36 AM
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As a public sector employee I have spent the last eight years, ok almost eight but election time is soon, working in an administration with political views that differ from mine. Perhaps more importantly I work for a state government in which the legislature is overwhelmingly controlled by those I do not agree with.

IF one day I felt that my ability to do the work for the people, and particularly the constituency of the agency I work for, was impaired beyond usefulness by either the executive or legislature; then I would resign. I am neither a political appointment nor management. My departure will not make one difference in how business is conducted. But I would not work for a government that is that opposed to my principles.

The situation is no different for you. Yes, the US Constitution may be changed at some point in the future. This is no more true or untrue than it ever has been. Every Congress passes or attempts to pass legislation regarding a flag burning amendment. It goes nowhere and will likely never go anywhere. The CA Constitution preamble has some religious language, so does the money in your pocket. Is this the fight you are fighting first? Can you do good with the job? Maybe you have to leave it but face that day when it comes, until then try to be of service.
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Old 08-31-2018, 07:36 AM
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I’m not clear if the objection is to the wording of the oath, or that the oath binds you to support things that you object to, like the preamble to the California Constitution.

Note that the oath only binds you to oppose “enemies” of the constitutions, not that you agree to absentmindedly support every jot and tiddle of them.

But, as a public employee, you may find yourself in situations where you are required to implement laws and policies you disagree with. If you believe this is a issue for you, it is a far larger problem than just signing an oath.
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Old 08-31-2018, 07:58 AM
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The (or affirm) was added for us Quakers in the US Constitution due to an aversion to swearing oaths. It has trickles down to states.

I see upon further investigation that two friends felt that the oath was "obligating them to participate in war or violence."

AFAIK this is not a common hang-up.

Looks like they were eventually hired.
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Old 08-31-2018, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Reply View Post

I understand this is just a silly formality left over from McCarthyism, but I take my oaths pretty seriously. I definitely have reservations to swearing this oath, largely motivated by my "religious" beliefs:

1) The California Constitution, in its preamble, already violates the principle of separation of church and state: "...grateful to Almighty God...". I strongly object to this phrasing and would absolutely refuse to support or defend it.

2) The US Constitution is currently under threat of revision by an orchestrated corruption between the religious right, corrupt capitalists, and possible Russians. In the very near future we may see it perverted against the public interest. I object on the grounds that my loyalty as a public servant should be to the American people, not a political document held hostage by an antiquated and flawed electoral system and at the mercy of undemocratic top-down revisionism, either through a rigged Supreme Court or a coalition of state Republican parties; Roe v Wade is the one currently making the rounds, but certainly other parts are similarly at risk (citizenship, etc.). The Constitution may be the supreme law, but law itself should be subservient to the people and often is not.

These are sincerely held beliefs in accordance with my "religious" philosophy -- that individuals and governments alike should act in the common good, guided by reason and learning, not faith and superstition -- but would the State of California recognize secular humanism as a "religion"? Are there any other exemptions I can lawfully utilize to avoid signing this oath?
No matter if you sign the oath/affirmation or not, if you are looking at the constitution of California and thinking "I don't support that" then the oath is not the problem; the job is.
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Old 08-31-2018, 08:23 AM
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When I was "sworn in" prior to testifying in court, I declined and explained why. No problem, they asked that I affirm, which I did.
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Old 08-31-2018, 08:56 AM
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I've personally never understood the distinction between swearing and affirming, and as a long-time, sometimes militant atheist, I've always sworn instead of affirmed during my many enlistment oaths because I don't place any religious meaning on that word.

Quote:
Originally Posted by internet dictionary
swear - make a solemn statement or promise undertaking to do something or affirming that something is the case.
I do, however, omit the optional "So help me God" bit at the end, but per the OP, that's not even an issue. I guess I need a clarification, OP, what's your exact issue with the oath?
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Old 08-31-2018, 09:13 AM
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Read the OP again, people. His objection is not to the oath itself, or to swearing versus affirming, but to the Constitution of the State of California and the Constitution of the United States of America. He thinks they are bad, or may soon become bad, so he doesn't want to promise to defend them. So, another vote from me tor "this job is not for you."
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Old 08-31-2018, 10:07 AM
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Read the OP again, people. His objection is not to the oath itself, or to swearing versus affirming, but to the Constitution of the State of California and the Constitution of the United States of America. He thinks they are bad, or may soon become bad, so he doesn't want to promise to defend them. So, another vote from me tor "this job is not for you."
Re-reading it, I think you're right. Especially in his bullet number 2: his objection to the upholding the Constitution isn't actually a matter of religious or atheistic views; it is his political views that "the people" ought to trump laws. That is antithetical to government service. IMHO, he should not take the job if he has a philosophical objection to implementing duly passed laws when they come into conflict with his opinion of what's best for "the people."
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Old 08-31-2018, 10:17 AM
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I'd tend to agree with that. If it's just wording of the oath, OP can strike out "swear" and circle "affirm" on the form.

If OP's objection is to the concept of defending the US and state constitutions, that's a fundamental conflict with the job.
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Old 08-31-2018, 10:39 AM
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Supporting and defending the constitution doesn't mean you have to support and defend each and every part of it, every last punctuation mark, plus any amendments that may or may not be added in the future, plus supreme court cases that reinterpret the constitution to mean something slightly different from what we thought they meant.

If you generally support the idea of having a constitution and you approve of 90%+ of what's currently in the constitution, I'd say that's good enough to say you support it and will defend it.

However, if you honestly feel that you support people instead of words, that's a problem and I think you're on the wrong side there. That's like saying you support a particular football team instead of supporting the rules of football. Even worse, it's a slippery slope toward saying you support Roger Goodell instead of the NFL. That's how we get dictatorships. Here in America, we are supposed to believe that no one is above the law. Conversely, that means the law is above everyone. Pure democracy follows the will of the majority, but a constitutional democracy protects minorities from the will of the majority. Two wolves and one sheep shouldn't vote on what to have for lunch. They should abide by the principle of equal protection under the law. That's what "the constitution" is all about. Ask yourself, do you support this concept?

That's not to say that the constitution is perfect and doesn't need fixing here and there. It's a work in progress.

Let me leave you with an analogy. Suppose you promised to "support and defend" your 2007 Toyota Camry. Then a month later you find out that the water pump has gone bad. You need a new water pump. You remove the old pump and throw it in the trash. A journalist jumps out from behind the trash can, holding a video camera and a microphone, and accuses you of violating your oath to defend the water pump. Piffle or not piffle?

Last edited by sbunny8; 08-31-2018 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 11:10 AM
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No matter if you sign the oath/affirmation or not, if you are looking at the constitution of California and thinking "I don't support that" then the oath is not the problem; the job is.
Right. The position is as an employee of the body politic known as "State of California", itself a part of the collective polity known as "United States of America" so the job is to implement the constitutions, laws and policies of those entities. Making the oaths to the constitutions are basically part of the concept of "government of laws, not of men".

I wonder how OP felt about those clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses even after SCOTUS ruled on marriage equality, and claimed a "religious belief" exception.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 08-31-2018 at 11:13 AM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 11:36 AM
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As others have said:

An affirmation is not a religious statement. There's no reason an atheist can't make an affirmation.

The Constitutions of both California and the United States are laws. If you feel that your personal beliefs would interfere with your ability to carry out the laws that are a requirement of the job then don't take the job.
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Old 08-31-2018, 11:45 AM
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Supporting and defending the constitution doesn't mean you have to support and defend each and every part of it, every last punctuation mark, plus any amendments that may or may not be added in the future, plus supreme court cases that reinterpret the constitution to mean something slightly different from what we thought they meant.

If you generally support the idea of having a constitution and you approve of 90%+ of what's currently in the constitution, I'd say that's good enough to say you support it and will defend it.
I disagree. I see a significant difference between approving of what's in the Constitution and supporting what's in the Constitution. You can support one hundred percent of the Constitution while disapproving of all of it. And one hundred percent support is what is required of public officials.

If you think a law is bad, you work on changing it. You don't evade it. You uphold that law right up to the day it is repealed.
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Old 08-31-2018, 12:00 PM
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What does it mean to "falsely sign" it, or whatever the wording describing the felony? Does that mean it is a felony to break the oath? Say Roe vs Wade is reversed, which you stated as a fear. Does writing an essay saying it should NOT have been reversed constitute breaking the oath? Would breaking any law, even jaywalking, get you slapped with a felony oath breaking charge? How long are you bound to the oath? Even after you get a job in Florida and sign an oath to its constitution? What does it mean to defend it? Guard a paper copy? Say "I agree with everything in it 100%"? Say "I agree we should have a constitution, but not necessarily with everything in it?"
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Old 08-31-2018, 12:36 PM
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It appears that the OP is more against the culture of the government of California and the US based upon both's constitutions. Since these are the founding documents upon which your potential employer is based upon, sounds like you shouldn't work for an employer that you fundamentally disagree with.

In the same vein that if you disagreed with a private sector company's mission or vision statement, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to work there either.
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Old 08-31-2018, 01:08 PM
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I’m an IT person who has worked for public and private organizations (and I currently work for a state government agency). I sometimes have to convey, explain, and at times even enforce policies I think are bad. I will sometimes even express that I disagree with them as I do so. It doesn’t matter as long as I do it.

I don’t see much of a difference here. What you have to ask yourself is whether you think you can do that. I’ve found that I can. And I’ve also (not often but on rare occasions) been able to make small changes in these organizations. That’s something I couldn’t do from the outside.

So just ask yourself if you can still do the job. If you can’t then find another one.
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Old 08-31-2018, 01:45 PM
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2) The US Constitution is currently under threat of revision by an orchestrated corruption between the religious right, corrupt capitalists, and possible Russians. In the very near future we may see it perverted against the public interest. I object on the grounds that my loyalty as a public servant should be to the American people, not a political document held hostage by an antiquated and flawed electoral system and at the mercy of undemocratic top-down revisionism, either through a rigged Supreme Court or a coalition of state Republican parties; ...
The chance of the US Constitution being "revised" as you said is so slim as to be negligible.
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Old 08-31-2018, 03:41 PM
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Has any person who signed the oath ever been fired or prosecuted solely for violating the oath?
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Old 08-31-2018, 04:39 PM
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Whoa, this thread blew up more than I expected Thanks for the feedback so far.

To clear some stuff up...

This job is an absolutely menial position. I'm won't even be a clerk, just a part-time aide with no policymaking or discretionary powers whatsoever, not even really any advisory stuff. My day-to-day is just helping around the office and occasionally interacting with tourists, handing out brochures and the such (it's an entry-level student job). The oath is just a formality, and will have pretty much zero impact on my duties. But who knows? In 5-10 years time? I may end up working in some other, more significant role.

But it's a law nonetheless, and more than that, an oath. Yes, of course I could just sign it and forget about it, like most reasonable people would, and I haven't altogether ruled out that possibility... but, really, it's the principle of the thing.

My gripe isn't with the Constitution(s) per se, but the "I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion" part of the oath. As above, I have reservations. I'm fine with probably 90% of the documents, and I can abide by the remaining 10% even if I don't like it, but I cannot say I support these documents without reservation. The oath isn't, "I shall abide by the Constitutions of the California and the United States despite my reservations," which is something I would be fine with. It is that "I will support and defend them [...] and have no reservations in doing so."

Again, can I uphold the Constitution and abide by its laws despite my reservations? Yes. But do I have reservations? Yes. Will they impact the actual job that taxpayers would be paying me for? Astronomically unlikely. The oath isn't asking me to suck up my reservations and just do my goddamned job -- which I'm fine with -- but to affirm that I have no reservations to begin with.

I'm not a libertarian and I understand any institution or body of law has its quirks and imperfections. I live and work within these systems, despite my reservations, and yes, prefer to change them through extant democratic processes. But to sign that oath despite my reservations would be, as stated in the law, an act of perjury. Not a great way to start public employment.

-----


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I doubt it but you'd need to research what "religion' means in the US.
I tried for a while to find a definition under California law, but was not successful. Would very much appreciate a cite.

-----

I see a few options going forward:

1) Just sign the damned thing and move on. Who cares?

2) Don't take the job.

3) Claim a religious exemption and see where secular humanism goes.

4) Read the oath more broadly, hoping that the "without reservation" part applies more generally to the California/US democratic processes in their entireties, not specifically to Constitutional Originalism -- i.e., that one can wholeheartedly support the fundamentals of American democracy despite having reservations with specific parts of the law or founding documents.
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Old 08-31-2018, 04:43 PM
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The OP asks if secular humanism is considered a religion. The answer is yes. A federal judge in Oregon ruled in American Humanist Association v. United States of America that secular humanism is a religion.

But the other issue concerns your belief that "loyalty as a public servant should be to the American people, not a political document held hostage by an antiquated and flawed electoral system." In other words, you wouldn't support and defend either constitution if it clashed with your personal beliefs. This is precisely why the state requires an oath or affirmation: as an employee, you don't get to make that call.

You sound like a person of conscience. If you don't believe you can uphold the state or US constitution constitution across the board, then I don't see how you could be very satisfied with the job.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:01 PM
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The OP asks if secular humanism is considered a religion. The answer is yes. A federal judge in Oregon ruled in American Humanist Association v. United States of America that secular humanism is a religion.
Fascinating. Thank you!! I wonder if this would trickle down to the States via federal supremacy?

Quote:
But the other issue concerns your belief that "loyalty as a public servant should be to the American people, not a political document held hostage by an antiquated and flawed electoral system." In other words, you wouldn't support and defend either constitution if it clashed with your personal beliefs. This is precisely why the state requires an oath or affirmation: as an employee, you don't get to make that call.
Not quite. I wouldn't necessarily support either document if they were revised against the public interest, which is much broader than my own interests. It's more of a question of direct democracy/populism vs representatives who are not acting in the public good: say, the electoral college, or an Interstate Compact, or a hard-right Constitutional Convention, or questionable Supreme Court appointments, etc. These once-armchair fears suddenly seem to have a lot more relevance these days. (Edit: The difference being "I cannot support this law because I personally disagree with it" vs "I cannot support this law because 80% of voting-age Americans don't support it but 200 lawmakers, bribed by 5 wealthy individuals, do.")

Quote:
You sound like a person of conscience. If you don't believe you can uphold the state or US constitution constitution across the board, then I don't see how you could be very satisfied with the job.
My job isn't legislative, just procedural. I am there to help other office clerks and to help members of the public find information about local lands and such. I have done many similar jobs for similar organizations and questions of Constitutional law never came into purview. It's a stupid oath left over from an era when rich white Christian men were worried about Communists infiltrating the government.

Last edited by Reply; 08-31-2018 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:03 PM
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To me, a reservation isn't "Oh, it's possible for something to happen with the Constitution I don't like or there is phrasing I don't like therefore I don't support it 100% wholeheartedly."

A reservation is (to me, in this context) a condition. "I am going to agree to do this except the parts I don't agree with. They'll just have to fire me!" If you know going in that you will refuse to do certain parts of the job, that's a reservation.

And to be clear, the affirmation/oath isn't to the Constitution in perpetuity. They can't change it to include a requirement to kick puppies then say "Haha! You have to stay in this job because you SWORE AN OATH to KICK PUPPIES!"
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:11 PM
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Umm, as an atheist, you realize that nobody is holding you to account for these 'oaths'. They mean nothing more than the breath you took to say them or the time you took to sign them. If you are insincere, nobody and nothing is going to hold you to account for your false oath.

I think you should upgrade you atheism to rationality. Rationality is a philosophy heavily based on recent advances in mathematics, used primarily for AI research. A rationalist has no problem signing an oath they don't mean, because as long as the expected value of (sign) is higher than the expected value of (refuse to sign), as measured against your utility function, you must sign it or you are irrational.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:41 PM
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Fascinating. Thank you!! I wonder if this would trickle down to the States via federal supremacy?



Not quite. I wouldn't necessarily support either document if they were revised against the public interest, which is much broader than my own interests. It's more of a question of direct democracy/populism vs representatives who are not acting in the public good: say, the electoral college, or an Interstate Compact, or a hard-right Constitutional Convention, or questionable Supreme Court appointments, etc. These once-armchair fears suddenly seem to have a lot more relevance these days. (Edit: The difference being "I cannot support this law because I personally disagree with it" vs "I cannot support this law because 80% of voting-age Americans don't support it but 200 lawmakers, bribed by 5 wealthy individuals, do.")



My job isn't legislative, just procedural. I am there to help other office clerks and to help members of the public find information about local lands and such. I have done many similar jobs for similar organizations and questions of Constitutional law never came into purview. It's a stupid oath left over from an era when rich white Christian men were worried about Communists infiltrating the government.
But once again, these are political views, not religious ones. Secular humanism doesn't require you to being a kind of populist that may reject certain laws; your political views do.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:44 PM
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4) Read the oath more broadly, hoping that the "without reservation" part applies more generally to the California/US democratic processes in their entireties, not specifically to Constitutional Originalism -- i.e., that one can wholeheartedly support the fundamentals of American democracy despite having reservations with specific parts of the law or founding documents.
It's not "without reservation". It's "without any mental reservation" which has a highly specific meaning that is not relevant in your case.

To have a mental reservation essentially means that you are lying or equivocating by qualifying or adding some additional words in your head, in such a way as to neutralise or change the plain meaning of the words you are affirming. This was a way for Catholics to deceive without offending their conscience as it was not considered to be sinful to equivocate in this way.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:45 PM
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3) Claim a religious exemption and see where secular humanism goes.
I'm no fan of religion, but I'm mindful of the ways that the power of the state has been used in the past to discriminate against religious minorities. "Take off your religious headgear" might be a practical consideration, or it might be bigotry, and my personal feelings of religious headgear aside, I appreciate the effort this country has taken to walk the line between allowing free exercise and forcing people to follow the law.

Walking this line gets more difficult when people fraudulently use religious exceptions as an end-run around a regulation they don't like. E.g., anti-vaxxers who claim a religious exemption to get their kids in public school, even though there's no religion I know of that prohibits vaccination in order to practice the faith.

Maybe I'm just still not understanding the grounds for your objection to the oath, but I'd say ask yourself a simple question -- "Does taking this oath prevent me from practicing my chosen religion (in this case, secular humanism) in the manner I feel appropriate given my sincerely held religious beliefs." If the answer is no, then please don't try to use a religious exemption, as it will 1) make people roll their eyes as you cause them trouble, and 2) make it harder for actual oppressed religious minorities to get the protection from the government that they might actually need.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:50 PM
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Fascinating. Thank you!! I wonder if this would trickle down to the States via federal supremacy?
I live in California also. Have you seen any religiously based state policies? When I got sworn in as a juror, what I said did not offend me as an atheist in the slightest. There was no so help me god option even.

Quote:
Not quite. I wouldn't necessarily support either document if they were revised against the public interest, which is much broader than my own interests. It's more of a question of direct democracy/populism vs representatives who are not acting in the public good: say, the electoral college, or an Interstate Compact, or a hard-right Constitutional Convention, or questionable Supreme Court appointments, etc. These once-armchair fears suddenly seem to have a lot more relevance these days. (Edit: The difference being "I cannot support this law because I personally disagree with it" vs "I cannot support this law because 80% of voting-age Americans don't support it but 200 lawmakers, bribed by 5 wealthy individuals, do.")
State legislators propose amendments to the California Constitution all the time without running into the fact that in so doing they are not supporting the existing Constitution 100%. Good enough for them should be good enough for you.
Plus, though I know you aren't involved in this, the California state government is at the forefront of resisting stuff in Washington which you oppose. You should think that joining it is like joining the right army.

Last edited by Voyager; 08-31-2018 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 05:58 PM
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There's no dilemma here. If the job requires you to do anything you find objectionable then you resign.
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Old 08-31-2018, 06:23 PM
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But once again, these are political views, not religious ones. Secular humanism doesn't require you to being a kind of populist that may reject certain laws; your political views do.
That's a separate thing. The secular humanism objection is to the inclusion of Almighty God in the preamble. It is not a trivial objection, but a deeply held belief that theism should not inform public policy.

Another poster said the preamble doesn't count, but I don't see that in the law...?

Last edited by Reply; 08-31-2018 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 08-31-2018, 06:29 PM
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My gripe isn't with the Constitution(s) per se, but the "I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion" part of the oath. As above, I have reservations. I'm fine with probably 90% of the documents, and I can abide by the remaining 10% even if I don't like it, but I cannot say I support these documents without reservation. The oath isn't, "I shall abide by the Constitutions of the California and the United States despite my reservations," which is something I would be fine with. It is that "I will support and defend them [...] and have no reservations in doing so."

Again, can I uphold the Constitution and abide by its laws despite my reservations? Yes. But do I have reservations? Yes. Will they impact the actual job that taxpayers would be paying me for? Astronomically unlikely. The oath isn't asking me to suck up my reservations and just do my goddamned job -- which I'm fine with -- but to affirm that I have no reservations to begin with........
.........


4) Read the oath more broadly, hoping that the "without reservation" part applies more generally to the California/US democratic processes in their entireties, not specifically to Constitutional Originalism -- i.e., that one can wholeheartedly support the fundamentals of American democracy despite having reservations with specific parts of the law or founding documents.
You are interpreting the oath incorrectly to start with. The "without mental reservation" applies to the preceding clause "take this obligation freely". It's got nothing to do with any of the documents/laws you are agreeing to support or whether you have any reservations about anything contained in those laws. It just means that your agreement (taking the obligation) is real and complete and you aren't doing it with your fingers crossed behind your back - what hibernicus said.
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Old 08-31-2018, 06:38 PM
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Another poster said the preamble doesn't count, but I don't see that in the law...?
It's general law. If you read it, you can see why it isn't law. Preambles say something like "we all got together and thought that laws to protect goats would be a good idea and it is hereby enacted that:
nobody can hit goats blah blah blah"

The "it is hereby enacted" (or whatever it might say in the US or in the particular US state) doesn't come before the "we had a meeting and thought this law would be a good idea" part - it's just background, or a bit of a summary of what the act is about.
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Old 08-31-2018, 08:24 PM
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I think the OP is being far too restrictive in his definitions. Let's say that I believe a person should have to be 21 years old to vote. Am I failing to support the U.S. Constitution against its enemies?

What about all of the failed proposed amendments in Congress? Are those Congresspeople in violation of their oaths since obviously they disagree with part of the Constitution?
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Old 09-02-2018, 06:24 AM
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Just to conclude with a brief update: After reading through the comments, I had to turn in my paperwork. I asked the HR person what would happen if I did wish to claim the religious exemption. She made a quick phone call and the other person just said to write a sentence saying "I declare that I have a religious objection to this oath." So I did, and that was that... a complete non-issue, even more so than I hoped. Nobody cared Phew.

-----------

But in case you want some further responses...

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Originally Posted by SamuelA View Post
If you are insincere, nobody and nothing is going to hold you to account for your false oath.
[...]
I think you should upgrade you atheism to rationality.
An oath doesn't have to be directed at some supernatural force to have value (not really concerned about the semantics of oath/affirmation). It could just be a social contract of best-effort honesty. Transparency and trust in a community (or democracy) are important to me.

What you're saying sounds more like the prisoner's dilemma, perhaps an individual vs communitarian conflict, rather than a theistic vs non-theistic problem. I believe it to be in my rational self-interest to live in a society where people's promises have value, and further, I believe that long-term societal interests outweigh my individual interests (to a point).

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It's not "without reservation". It's "without any mental reservation" which has a highly specific meaning that is not relevant in your case.
This is an interesting interpretation that I hadn't heard of. I read up on its religious background, but a few legal dictionaries suggested that the law doesn't hold this view of the term, instead using it in the general sense that I assumed. The Catholic and Jesuit histories were fascinating, though, so thanks for sharing!

If this is wrong and you know of a cite clarifying that "mental reservation" does mean what you say, I would appreciate it.

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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I live in California also. Have you seen any religiously based state policies?
Of course I don't think that California is a theocracy, but having lived in rural towns, believe me... religion is still a significant sociopolitical force. I categorically object to religious corruption in public life, and there is plenty of that to go around, even in California. It's a huge part of the Republican base, so even the virtue-signaling/dog-whistling language that seems innocent to you has the nefarious purpose of normalizing religion in state affairs.

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You are interpreting the oath incorrectly to start with. The "without mental reservation" applies to the preceding clause "take this obligation freely". It's got nothing to do with any of the documents/laws you are agreeing to support or whether you have any reservations about anything contained in those laws. It just means that your agreement (taking the obligation) is real and complete and you aren't doing it with your fingers crossed behind your back - what hibernicus said.
But I did have reservations (mental or otherwise; I could not find a cite to support hibernicus's assertion that the law inherits the more limited religious meaning). It makes no sense "to take an obligation freely" when you object to parts of the obligation.

The obligation is to the entirely of the passage: to support and defend the documents, against all enemies blah blah. I could not take that obligation freely while being concerned with the very things it would've bound me to; to take that obligation while secretly harboring these reservations would be the "purpose of evasion" it warns against, no?

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It's general law. If you read it, you can see why it isn't law. Preambles say something like "we all got together and thought that laws to protect goats would be a good idea and it is hereby enacted that:
nobody can hit goats blah blah blah"
I don't think it's that clear-cut. See section 3 of this analysis or page 608 in this law review article for some of the arguments. Preambles seem legally ambiguous.

Last edited by Reply; 09-02-2018 at 06:28 AM.
  #38  
Old 09-02-2018, 07:21 AM
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Did you make clear that you have a substantive objection to upholding the law; as opposed to a personal objection to making an oath, while asking about your “religious” objection?
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Old 09-02-2018, 08:01 AM
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would be the "purpose of evasion" it warns against, no?
no.

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I don't think it's that clear-cut.
It is. If you don't accept that it is, just read the one you are talking about. It sets out the asserted reason for the constitution being established. How can YOU, lowly public servant, change history? If you were ever called upon to "defend" the preamble, all you'd have to say is that that is the stated reason of those who enacted it. Nobody cares whether you "agree" with their reasons.
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Old 09-02-2018, 12:38 PM
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Did you make clear that you have a substantive objection to upholding the law; as opposed to a personal objection to making an oath, while asking about your “religious” objection?
No. They didn't care. It's just meaningless paperwork they wanted to get over with. My written statement was just what I said in the previous post, with no further specification or elaboration. Probably no one will ever see it again. *shrug* Stupid oath, stupid process.

Last edited by Reply; 09-02-2018 at 12:40 PM.
  #41  
Old 09-02-2018, 03:04 PM
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I think the OP is being far too restrictive in his definitions. Let's say that I believe a person should have to be 21 years old to vote. Am I failing to support the U.S. Constitution against its enemies?
You're free to believe that the voting age should be twenty-one. But you're required to uphold the law; you can't turn away a voter who is eighteen.

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What about all of the failed proposed amendments in Congress? Are those Congresspeople in violation of their oaths since obviously they disagree with part of the Constitution?
Let's say you're a member of Congress. You're free, legally and morally, to introduce a proposed amendment to repeal the 26th Amendment. The Constitution includes procedures for amending it.

But you have to continue to uphold the 26th Amendment up to the day your repeal is enacted.
  #42  
Old 09-02-2018, 03:25 PM
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The OP asks if secular humanism is considered a religion. The answer is yes. A federal judge in Oregon ruled in American Humanist Association v. United States of America that secular humanism is a religion.
A judge's opinion doesn't redefine language usage:
Quote:
Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
That means that secular humanism, like atheism, is NOT a religion, any more than not collecting stamps can be called a hobby.

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This job is an absolutely menial position. I'm won't even be a clerk, just a part-time aide with no policymaking or discretionary powers whatsoever, not even really any advisory stuff. My day-to-day is just helping around the office and occasionally interacting with tourists, handing out brochures and the such (it's an entry-level student job). The oath is just a formality, and will have pretty much zero impact on my duties. But who knows? In 5-10 years time? I may end up working in some other, more significant role.
So right now, you have no problem with defending any constitution. If, in 5 years' time, things change, and you are feeling forced to defend something you don't believe in, resign. It was a good ride while it lasted.
  #43  
Old 09-02-2018, 04:02 PM
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No. They didn't care. It's just meaningless paperwork they wanted to get over with. My written statement was just what I said in the previous post, with no further specification or elaboration. Probably no one will ever see it again. *shrug* Stupid oath, stupid process.
I cannot square that you believe this is a non-issue after saying how important I wasto you to be honest about your views on the oath; but whatever.

Last edited by Ravenman; 09-02-2018 at 04:03 PM.
  #44  
Old 09-02-2018, 04:21 PM
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Of course I don't think that California is a theocracy, but having lived in rural towns, believe me... religion is still a significant sociopolitical force. I categorically object to religious corruption in public life, and there is plenty of that to go around, even in California. It's a huge part of the Republican base, so even the virtue-signaling/dog-whistling language that seems innocent to you has the nefarious purpose of normalizing religion in state affairs.
Do you think that removing religious language from the state Constitution would change the impact of religion in small towns?
I would suspect that there is plenty of language in the Constitution to help fight religious incursions at the local level - in the sense of the religious trying to force their beliefs on us. In any case the religious will mask this in secular terms, like they did for Prop. 8. So, even if you get what you want it wouldn't help.
  #45  
Old 09-02-2018, 05:09 PM
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...My gripe isn't with the Constitution(s) per se, but the "I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion" part of the oath. As above, I have reservations. I'm fine with probably 90% of the documents, and I can abide by the remaining 10% even if I don't like it, but I cannot say I support these documents without reservation. The oath isn't, "I shall abide by the Constitutions of the California and the United States despite my reservations," which is something I would be fine with. It is that "I will support and defend them [...] and have no reservations in doing so."...
I think you are misreading the oath.

First, I don't think you have any cause to claim a religious exemption, because it already allows you to "affirm" rather than "swear".

Second, I don't think you are affirming that you have no reservations about the constitution, I think you are affirming that you have no reservations
Quote:
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 take this obligation freely
Supporting and defending the constitution doesn't mean you agree with every word it says. I will support and defend my brother, even though he's sometimes a pain in the ass. I don't agree with him completely, but I'll defend him. Your job might potentially involve supporting some aspect of the constitution. If that comes up, you need to be willing to do that. Otherwise, you shouldn't accept the job.

The preamble doesn't act as a "law" in any real way. You aren't going to be asked to defend the reasons the constitution was signed, you are (potentially) going to be asked to defend the regulations, etc., encoded in the constitution. So you can't discriminate against the religious, for example. Or if you can marry people, you can't refuse to marry a same-sex couple. That's the sort of thing you need to defend. Not the precise wording of the preamble.

Similarly, bearing true faith and allegiance doesn't mean you agree with every word, just that you will support it, even the parts you disagree with.

And unless someone is holding a gun to your head, you have the free choice to affirm this or to find some other job. So I see no problem with that at all.
  #46  
Old 09-03-2018, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
You're free to believe that the voting age should be twenty-one. But you're required to uphold the law; you can't turn away a voter who is eighteen.



Let's say you're a member of Congress. You're free, legally and morally, to introduce a proposed amendment to repeal the 26th Amendment. The Constitution includes procedures for amending it.

But you have to continue to uphold the 26th Amendment up to the day your repeal is enacted.
What does "uphold" mean? I'm a Congressperson. If a 19 year old tries to vote and is turned away at the polls, how do I uphold the 26th amendment? If I refuse to vote for a "Sense of the House" resolution condemning the poll worker, am I in violation?

If I disagree with Roe v. Wade, am I in violation? If two years from now, SCOTUS overrules Roe v. Wade, am I in compliance and everyone else in violation? I think not either way.

That's why I say the OP is overstating the issue. He can swear to support the Constitution even if he believes that the GOP has usurped it and passed laws wiping away what he believes are essential parts of it. He supports the "Constitution" not what Trump (or Obama or Paul Ryan or even a rogue Supreme Court) says it is.
  #47  
Old 09-04-2018, 01:11 PM
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No. They didn't care. It's just meaningless paperwork they wanted to get over with. My written statement was just what I said in the previous post, with no further specification or elaboration. Probably no one will ever see it again. *shrug* Stupid oath, stupid process.
...until you run for public office, and the opposition researchers dig up this paperwork for your first public service job. Then you can explain yourself.
  #48  
Old 09-04-2018, 01:27 PM
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What does "uphold" mean? I'm a Congressperson. If a 19 year old tries to vote and is turned away at the polls, how do I uphold the 26th amendment? If I refuse to vote for a "Sense of the House" resolution condemning the poll worker, am I in violation?

If I disagree with Roe v. Wade, am I in violation? If two years from now, SCOTUS overrules Roe v. Wade, am I in compliance and everyone else in violation? I think not either way.

That's why I say the OP is overstating the issue. He can swear to support the Constitution even if he believes that the GOP has usurped it and passed laws wiping away what he believes are essential parts of it. He supports the "Constitution" not what Trump (or Obama or Paul Ryan or even a rogue Supreme Court) says it is.
FWIW, I think the intent of the oath is to protect our laws from extrajudicial assaults, as opposed to requiring that every law be treated as an infallible utterance from the Almighty, for which dissent is considered heresy.
  #49  
Old 09-04-2018, 05:30 PM
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A judge's opinion doesn't redefine language usage. That means that secular humanism, like atheism, is NOT a religion, any more than not collecting stamps can be called a hobby.
English is a living language with no real arbitrator of meaning. English dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, lagging behind popular culture. Merriam-Webster says "4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith".

At the end of the day, no 10,000 people will ever agree on what precisely "religion" means. Is Buddhism a religion? It doesn't matter what you believe unless someone wants to use force to enforce their definition on you. In this case, it's the state using its monopoly on violence to coerce behavior, as moderated (in theory) by judges' interpretations.

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I cannot square that you believe this is a non-issue after saying how important I wasto you to be honest about your views on the oath; but whatever.
I'm not sure I follow. I didn't elaborate because I don't believe my employer cares one way or the other, not because I don't. I would gladly explain it to them if they asked, the same way I explained here. As far as I could tell, they just wanted to get the paperwork over with so I could start my job asap -- which, again, has absolutely nothing to do with matters of Constitutional law.

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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Do you think that removing religious language from the state Constitution would change the impact of religion in small towns?
I would suspect that there is plenty of language in the Constitution to help fight religious incursions at the local level - in the sense of the religious trying to force their beliefs on us. In any case the religious will mask this in secular terms, like they did for Prop. 8. So, even if you get what you want it wouldn't help.
It's a step in the right direction, sure. If it were up to me, public policy would be strictly evidence-based and require sound science instead of populist religiosity. Things like climate change denialism wouldn't be a thing if it weren't for the GOP dog-whistling to conservative Christians. I would be quite stoked to see all references to God/s removed from all US public documents, maybe with a lengthy pre-amble reminding future generations of the damage they once did. If it were up to me, I would also remove religious freedom from (or at least greatly temper) the 1st Amendment and regulate the hell out of religions, everything from Mormon child rape to Catholic molestation to Christian anti-abortionism to Muslim anti-feminism. Good thing it's not up to me, huh?

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Originally Posted by puzzlegal View Post
Similarly, bearing true faith and allegiance doesn't mean you agree with every word, just that you will support it, even the parts you disagree with.

And unless someone is holding a gun to your head, you have the free choice to affirm this or to find some other job. So I see no problem with that at all.
I also, thankfully, have the choice of *not* taking the oath by claiming a religious exemption, which I have done, so thank you Quakers. I see it the equivalent of Satanists putting up goat head statues in front of courts (which I highly approve of).

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Originally Posted by kaylasdad99 View Post
...until you run for public office, and the opposition researchers dig up this paperwork for your first public service job. Then you can explain yourself.
Good. Let them read it. I stand by my words. Besides, don't worry, I'm too disorganized to ever run, and too flawed a character to ever win even if I did I've said much worse, and I stand by those words, too. Our nation is antiquated, extremely flawed, unjust, and far from great. Everything from the Constitution to electoral systems to campaign financing to executive immunity to a lack of direct federal democracy all need to be updated for the modern age.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
FWIW, I think the intent of the oath is to protect our laws from extrajudicial assaults, as opposed to requiring that every law be treated as an infallible utterance from the Almighty, for which dissent is considered heresy.
It's really a mix of wanting to instill a sense of loyalty to institutions and also because politicians from the Civil War onwards wanted to use them to get rid of people they didn't like.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_o...ry_of_the_Oath
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar...ion/oe-stone11
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-oe...r02-story.html

Last edited by Reply; 09-04-2018 at 05:31 PM.
  #50  
Old 09-04-2018, 07:00 PM
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Good. Let them read it. I stand by my words.
I hope you are never called on to try to justify or "explain" what you've done. Of course your employer isn't too concerned, they aren't the one who've made a statement to the effect of what you have.
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