1961 January 26

California Loyalty Oath for Organizations Struck Down

 

The California State Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law that required organizations to submit a declaration of loyalty in order to use public school facilities. The mania for loyalty oaths during the Cold War in California included the long controversy over the University of California loyalty oath for faculty (see April 21, 1950).

The insidious aspect of all the loyalty oaths of the Cold War era was that they had nothing to do with any specific criminal or unprofessional conduct on the part of individuals required to sign them.

Loyalty oaths were a special mania during the anti-Communist frenzy of the Cold War. Unlike traditional oaths of office, which involve an oath to uphold the Constitution and the country’s laws, Cold War loyalty oaths required people to swear that they were not members of the Communist Party and/or other radical parties or movements. Thus, they were oaths regarding membership and beliefs without reference to any actual or planned illegal action. Besides the California loyalty oath, the mania for loyalty oaths during the Cold War also included the Taft-Hartley Act, which required a loyalty oath for labor leaders (June 23, 1947); the Gwinn Amendment, which required a loyalty oath for federally funded public housing residents (July 5, 1952); and, in the 1960s, a loyalty oath for Medicare recipients, which was never enforced (February 13, 1967).

Read about the University of California loyalty oath: David Gardner, The California Oath Controversy (1967)

Learn more at a timeline on the California loyalty oath controversy: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/loyaltyoath/timeline_test.html

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