"no false patriotic wreath"
posted by k
Loyalty oaths are back in fashion. In California, Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses and others have been barred from public employment for refusing to sign the oath the state requires. Quaker Agitator has been commenting on the case of lecturer Wendy Gonaver, prevented from taking up her job at California State University because she is not allowed to amend the oath to clarify her pacifist convictions.
The United States has a history of imposing loyalty oaths and hounding dissenters. Luckily there have always been brave people prepared to protest in public. In Britain, the imposition of loyalty oaths causes barely a ripple of objection.
Fortunately, recent suggestions that all school-leavers be asked to swear a loyalty oath as part of a celebration of "Britishness" seem to have died away in the face of general objections and mockery. But the attempt to summarise and enforce "Britishness" continues. We may yet be asked to sign up to a national motto chosen by a citizens' summit - though no-one seems to know how the citizens will be chosen. And oaths of allegiance remain an almost unquestioned aspect of British life.
A new campaign, "Challenge the Oath" has been set up by Republic, the campaign for an elected Head of State. This includes a useful list of people required to pledge allegiance to the crown. Many offices and jobs are forbidden to honest republicans while naturalisation procedures mean that only monarchists and liars can become citizens. Challenge the Oath has launched a petition against oaths of allegiance to the crown. Another petition on the Downing Street website calls for an end to oaths of allegiance for MPs and Lords. (There are more details of this elsewhere on Areopagitica.)
These petitions don't go far enough, although they deserve support and signatures. The Challenge the Oath petition assumes one oath can be substituted for another - it suggests individuals should pledge allegiance to their country instead of the crown. But oaths themselves cause problems, as Wendy Gonaver's case demonstrates.
It's time to look behind the demads for patriotism, national identity and oaths of allegiance in Britain and the United States. They restrict our sense of humanity. I don't know where it will end.