[Sayma-Discuss] FYI Quakers
Roy H Taylor III
wrldpeas at mindspring.com
Fri Feb 29 14:31:44 EST 2008
Quaker teacher fired for changing loyalty oath
Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008
California State University East Bay has fired a math teacher after six
weeks on the job because she inserted the word "nonviolently" in her
state-required Oath of Allegiance form.
Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching
remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job
after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution
that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.
"I don't think it was fair at all," said Kearney-Brown. "All they care about
is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don't care if I meant it, and
it didn't seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered.
My teaching didn't matter. Nothing."
A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling
students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified
it each time.
She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in
Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo
Each time, when asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and
defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and
domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in
front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All
were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said.
The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said.
But Cal State East Bay wouldn't, and she was fired on Thursday.
Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's
attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate
situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more
than willing to continue her employment."
Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without
commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General
Jerry Brown said that "as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform
with individual values." For example, court oaths may be modified so that
atheists don't have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.
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
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."
But Hill said Kearney-Brown could sign the oath and add a separate note to
her personal file that expressed her views.
Kearney-Brown declined. "To me it just wasn't the same. I take the oath
seriously, and if I'm going to sign it, I'm going to do it nonviolently."
Then came the warning.
"Please understand that this issue needs to be resolved no later than
Friday, Feb. 22, 2008, or you will not be allowed to continue to work for
the university," Hill wrote.
The deadline was then extended to Wednesday and she was fired on Thursday.
"I was kind of stunned," said Kearney-Brown, who is pursuing her master's
degree in math to earn the credentials to do exactly the job she is being
"I was born to do this," she said. "I teach developmental math, the lowest
level. The kids who are conditionally accepted to the university. Give me
the kids who hate math - that's what I want."
E-mail Nanette Asimov at nasimov at sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle=
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