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An oath state workers are required to take swearing to “defend” the state and federal constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” almost caused two Quaker employees who rejected it on religious grounds to lose their jobs.

Now the state Senate has voted to give some Californians the option to pass on taking it.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) wrote the measure after the two Quakers were briefly denied employment last year by the California State University system, one involving the campus in Fullerton.

They felt the oath conflicted with their religious beliefs. The two were hired last year after some legal wrangling.


Lowenthal said the Quakers, committed to pacifism, interpret the oath as obligating them to participate in war or violence.

“We should not be asking people to violate their faith in order to work for the state of California as long as they will uphold the laws of the state,” Lowenthal said on the Senate floor this week.

Under SB 115, which now goes to the Assembly, public employees would be able to take or sign a modified oath that commits to upholding the constitutions of the United States and California without the “defending” provision.

The Senate vote was 21 to 11, with Republicans opposing the change.

“Removing the requirement that an oath be taken to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States’ for qualification for public service strikes at the very heart of our great country,” said Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta).

-- Patrick McGreevy