Derek Questions Signing a Loyalty Oath – Part 1

by | Mar 1, 2007 | Stress Blog | 17 comments

After living in Austin, Texas for the last three years I’ve now returned to Los Angeles, a favorite city of mine, for work and higher education. I’m a big fan of the diversity and opportunities here as well as the pedestrian culture in my neighborhood. And having the beach breeze and mild weather doesn’t hurt either.

I work in the health care industry as a licensed professional and am going to work at a state college hospital with a well known name. Going to work for a hospital has always been a big ordeal with an incredible bureaucracy and tons of paperwork. And this time has been no different, except for…

Hidden away on a page where I sign off on research patent rights, etc… was a small block of text to the effect of my swearing an oath to ‘uphold the constitution of the United States and the state of California‘ and to ‘support and defend’ it. It was labeled the ‘loyalty oath’. Next to the line where I was to sign was a small section of text that stated I was signing this oath with out ‘mental evasion’ and the usual text. My gut felt like a ton of bricks.

So as everyone was happily signing a way as part of the due process in the group setting I asked the administrator why we had to sign a military style oath to the government and what it meant. She responded with the nonsensical answer that everyone does: “After 9/11, everything changed”. WTF? How in any way does 9/11 have anything to do with taking care of my patients? Since I didn’t expect to get more information from her (no fault of hers, she was merely a functionary) I then asked the simple question, “If I refuse to sign this will I still be hired?”. She had no answer for that either and I refused to press the issue. But likewise, I refused to sign the oath.

After the paperwork was done, I let her know privately that I had not signed the loyalty oath and would not do so until I spoke further with the HR department as well as Risk Management (hospital liability lawyers department). And I won’t either unless it gets to the point that they refuse to continue the hiring process with me because I will not sign a (observably meaningless) ‘loyalty oath’ to a government that I do not support. If and when that time comes, I will most likely sign the oath simply so I can eat. Imagine that.

This is just awful on so many levels. If I have to sign this under threat of non-employment isn’t that ‘duress’? Wouldn’t I be committing ‘mental evasion’ as well a perjuring myself by signing a legal document simply for the sake of completing the paperwork that is just a rubber stamp along the assembly line anyway? What’s striking also, is that no one even questioned this signing of said document and reactions to my questioning of the oath were of the nature that no one has every really questioned it before. It is such a rare or unique occurrence that there were no canned answers for them to feed back to me.

Well, I have two weeks until my official start date. I plan on speaking to the aforementioned hospital departments in the interim. I’ll update here as events warrant simply because if I want to know how weird and ironic all of this gets, I image some of you others would as well.