People For the American Way Foundation

Fired Teacher Calls on Calif State University to Change “Loyalty Oath” Policy


Contact: Josh Glasstetter or Drew Courtney at People for the American Way Foundation

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

People For the American Way Foundation has taken up the case of fired Quaker teacher Wendy Gonaver, insisting that the California State University restore her to a teaching job and allow her to state her religious and free speech concerns about the language of a “loyalty oath” required by the state. After being hired to teach American Studies and Women’s Studies courses at Cal State Fullerton last fall, Gonaver was dismissed when her religious beliefs as a pacifist rendered her unable to sign the required “loyalty oath,” which could be construed to require her to take up arms in defense of the Constitution.

“It’s beyond ironic that a woman who was planning to teach a course on American studies, including a section on McCarthyism, was fired for not taking a loyalty oath,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Kathryn Kolbert. “The University system should restore Wendy’s job, and make the appropriate changes to the policy so this does not happen again.”

“I’m shocked that this happened,” said Gonaver. “I fully support the Constitution and remain willing to sign the oath, but it’s important to me that my religious views and my right to free speech are recognized. I hope that we can find a solution. I’m really looking forward to returning to the classroom.”

People For the American Way Foundation is also launching a petition for Californians to call on the university system to adopt a policy allowing employees to attach an explanatory statement when they have religious or other objections to the oath.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are two of our most fundamental rights. Law-abiding citizens like Wendy, who love and respect their country precisely because of those freedoms, must be able to exercise those rights, and certainly should not lose their jobs for doing so.” said Kolbert. “This is not a question of loyalty. It is a fundamental question of basic American rights.”

You can read People For Foundation’s letter, along with Gonaver’s proposed addendum and proposed policy allowing faculty members to attach addendums to the loyalty oath in the future, here .