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Communism would no longer be a firing offense under bill
Date 08/05/18/13:35
Communism would no longer be a firing offense under bill
By Aurelio Rojas -

Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 16, 2008
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A3

The California Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would delete membership in the Communist Party as a reason for firing a public employee, a Cold War-era prohibition intended to root out communists.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, called communism a "failed system" and said his bill Senate Bill 1322 was intended to protect "the constitutional freedoms that we have fought so valiantly for," including freedom of political affiliation.

California is the only state that allows public employees to be dismissed for membership in a political party.

In addition, current law requires that any organization that applies to use a public school facility can be asked to sign a statement that "the applicant is not a communist action organization or a communist front."

"SB 1322 seeks to protect the rights of free speech and political affiliation by repealing the no-longer-necessary statute from the books," Lowenthal said.

The bill, he said, would "still allow employees to be fired for any activity to overthrow the state or federal government."

The legislation, which will now be considered by the Assembly, was approved on a 24-15 vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.

Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, warned "the Communist Party is not a dead organization and (is) actively repressing human beings in Cuba and China in brutal ways.

"The state has every right to hold school employees accountable for their political standing, especially if that employee belongs to an organization that favors the violent overthrow of the government," Denham said during the debate on the bill.

Denham said that it's also "reasonable that use of public school property should be limited to groups who support our democracy and do not advocate the overthrow of government by force, violence or other possible means."

But Lowenthal argued "the Communist Party does not advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government.

"This is a very conservative bill," he said. "(It) says we must uphold the constitution."

The Legislature cannot repeal California's loyalty oath, which was added to the state constitution by voters in 1952, but its current use was debated Thursday.

The oath requires public employees in California to swear to "defend" the U.S. and California constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The law is sporadically enforced, but some potential employees have declined to sign the pledge over religious or political issues.


* Call Aurelio Rojas, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5545.

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