High Courts Sanction Teacher Loyalty Oaths
Oklahoma Passes New Test Shortly After Supreme Court Voids First
Although the Supreme Court voided Oklahoma's first loyalty oath law last December, the eight teachers who resigned to test it have not, and probably never will return to teach in the state, and meanwhile another law, tailored to the Court's objections, became effective April 8.
By a vote of 8 to 0, the nation's highest court struck down the oath after it had been in existence one year. Justice Tom Clark, writing the court's decision, labelled as a denial of due process the section that refused public employment to any person who had been a member of a "subversive" organization within the last five years. Another provision, requiring all public employees to bear arms against a foreign power, was declared a violation of Constitutional religious rights.
Because the Court had vetoed the Oklahome and upheld the New York Fineberg law, Oklahoma representative Bill Shibley, author of the first law, changed his to fit the Fineberg pattern. The Fineberg law applies only to people who know the groups they are in are subversive. The new Oklahoma law provides for the Constitutional privileges of pacifists by inserting the clause "or render non-combat service" in the pledge to "take up arms in the defense of the U.S. in times of war or national emergency."
The The Oklahoma teachers who resigned did so in protest. None of them had even been affiliated with a subversive group. All have since found employment out of the state, and in view of the new shape of the oath, indications are that its constitutionality will not be tested.
Thus, the Supreme Court seems to have drawn a clear line in its opinion on the "subversive groups" clauses in loyalty oaths. Joining with no knowledge of their nature or joining before they are named by the Attorney General is not subject to test oath punishment.
In a concurrence to the decision that was really a dissent from its principles, Justice Huge Black said "test oaths are notorious tools of tyranny. This is just one of a national network of laws aimed at coercing and controlling the minds was really a dissent from its principles, of men."