California State University and People For the American Way Foundation
(June 2, 2008) – The California State University (CSU) and Wendy Gonaver, represented by attorneys with People For the American Way Foundation, have worked out an agreement over a dispute concerning the requirement that all state employees sign a "loyalty oath" as required by the California Constitution.
Gonaver was originally to have taught two courses at California State University, Fullerton as a temporary lecturer in fall 2007, but she and the university differed over the signing of the oath. A Quaker and pacifist, Gonaver was unable to sign the oath as written because of her religious and other beliefs, and sought to attach an explanatory statement to the oath. Gonaver said that the university would not permit her to attach an explanatory statement, and this violated her legal rights. CSU said that it would not permit Gonaver's original proposed statement because it believed that it qualified the oath.
CSU and People For the American Way Foundation have worked together to resolve the dispute. CSU has agreed to appoint Gonaver as a temporary lecturer teaching two classes in American Studies and Women's Studies during the fall 2008 semester, and to allow the attachment of a revised explanatory statement to the oath that CSU agrees does not undermine or qualify the oath.
“CSU is committed to working with individual employees to accommodate their religious beliefs in order to allow them to sign the oath,” said CSU General Counsel Christine Helwick. “If an explanatory statement is needed to accomplish this, CSU must ensure that any such statement does not undermine or qualify the oath. In this case, we are pleased that this dispute ended in a positive resolution, and that we were able to work through the process together.”
Judith E. Schaeffer, Legal Director of People For the American Way Foundation and Gonaver’s attorney, said the settlement clears the way for others with religious or other objections to the oath to attach an explanatory statement, as long as the statement does not undermine or qualify the oath.
“We’re delighted that Wendy will be able to teach at CSU and that the university has allowed her to exercise freedom of speech and express her strong religious beliefs as someone who loves her country and the Constitution,” said Schaeffer. “We’re especially pleased, as is Wendy, that others facing the same situation will also be able to work with CSU to resolve any issues they may have about the oath.”
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 450,000 students and 46,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California. See www.calstate.edu
For more information about People For the American Way Foundation, visit www.pfaw.org.
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