1956 February 27

Loyalty Oaths Cannot Be Required for Federal Housing


The Supreme Court on this day let stand a lower court ruling from California which invalidated a loyalty oath requirement for eligibility for federally-supported public housing. The case involved a public housing tenant who had refused to sign the federal loyalty oath required by the Gwinn Amendment, and were facing eviction. The lower court in this case ruled that the loyalty oath violated the free speech and due process rights of tenants.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled against the Gwinn Amendment, which Congress passed on July 5, 1952

The Gwinn Amendment was only one manifestation of the mania for loyalty oaths during the Cold War. Other loyalty oaths were required in a variety of states of public school teachers, college professors, and union leaders. Especially important was the enormous controversy over the loyalty oath for faculty at the University of California (April 21, 1950).

Learn about the famous case of James Kutcher, a legless World War II veteran, who challenged the Gwinn Amendment loyalty oath requirement (December 29, 1952).

Read the new book: Robert Justin Goldstein, Discrediting the Red Scare: The Cold War Trials of James Kutcher, “The Legless Veteran” (2016)

Read James Kutcher’s own story: James Kutcher, The Case of the Legless Veteran (1973)

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

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