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Illinois' Loyalty Oath: Take It Or The Communists Win

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 27, 2009 10:00PM

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If you're on the fringes of the political spectrum - right or left - you may have a PR problem running for a position in Illinois government. Though it's optional, candidates are encouraged to sign a loyalty oath, a short statement affirming they are "not affiliated directly or indirectly with any communist organization or any communist front organization, or any foreign political agency, party, organization or government which advocates the overthrow of constitutional government." WBEZ reports that most candidates turned in the oath with their ballot petitions.

The oath is a cold war relic dating back decades. In 1969, a federal panel of three judges found that requiring Illinois state employees to take an oath was unconstitutional. Loyalty oaths like this are common however. Federal employees have to sign a similar document, though the language about communists has been removed. I once even had to sign a document with similar language, affirming that I am not a communist, to rent an American Legion hall in Northwest Indiana.

At a time when students are required out of habit to recite the pledge of allegiance and when republicans are considering their own type of loyalty oath, it may seem like just another procedural exercise, but not everyone is happy about it. In an interview with WBEZ, Illinois communist organizer John Bachtell said, "The very fact that it's on the books is wrong and it should be repealed...If we want to further democratize elections and remove the stain of McCarthyism from our country it should just be completely taken off the books." Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski said the oath is, "truly an arcane and anachronistic provision in the election code."

Illinois doesn't yet have a formal tea party (yet) or a large contingent of oath keepers (yet), but both groups may be the type of right wing organizations whose loyalty to "not advocate the overthrow of constitutional government" could come into question. If that's the case, politics would truly make strange bedfellows, putting both the far left and far right (who often accuse each other of disloyalty to America) in the same box.