Hooray! The spirit of McCarthyism is alive and well in Hastings, Nebraska, where for the first time in ages, the local school district has asked all its teachers to comply with a 1951 state law requiring all teachers to sign a loyalty oath. After teachers complained, the ACLU warned the district that it’s begging for a lawsuit, but the school’s attorney advised the superintendent that the law is still valid and probably should be followed. Besides, isn’t Real Americanism all about making people pledge to support democracy and freedom, whether they want to or not, and also judging whether they’re patriotic enough?
The ACLU of Nebraska’s legal director, Amy Miller, wrote to Hastings School Superintendent Craig Kautz to advise that the Supreme Court actually outlawed loyalty oaths way back in 1964, in the mellifluously named case of Baggett v. Bullitt, which only sounds like it should be a movie with hobbits and a kickass car chase, but actually held that states can’t require employees to take vague oaths that might deter free speech.
For his part, Kautz says that the school district’s attorney said the 1951 law requiring the oath wasn’t invalidated by the nasty Baggettses, since there’s no actual penalty for teachers who refuse to sign.
Kautz told the Associated Press that his preference would be for the state legislature to resolve the issue by re-examining the 1951 law and maybe tossing it out as the Red Scare relic it is. “I just hope we don’t get dragged into something that’s above our level.” Nice try, there, Superintendent.
Oh, hey, why did Kautz decide that he had to start enforcing a McCarthyist loyalty pledge law that he’d never heard of, anyway? Because of a one-man campaign for Patriotism and Americanism pursued by Lincoln businessman Richard Zierke, who “asked the Nebraska Board of Education to enforce the law,” according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Mr. Zierke isn’t only a businessman — he’s a get-in-everyone-else’s-business man who loves to make sure that American Patriotism gets its due. In addition to pushing the resumption of the loyalty oaths in Hastings, Zierke also persuaded Millard school board member Paul Meyer of the wisdom of insisting that teachers sign the oaths:
“I think teachers should be signing this pledge,” Meyer said. “I think the administrators should be signing this pledge, because they are paid with public school funds.”
“I would sign it,” he said.
It seems that Zierke is simply bursting with projects to fix America’s lack of Americanism. In 2014, he lobbied Lancaster County to spend $18,000 to place brass markers on all military veterans’ headstones at a Lincoln cemetery, because that’s the right (American) thing to do.
In 2011, the former Marine, whose day job as a hotel sales manager no doubt interferes sometimes with his hobby of policing other people’s patriotism, persuaded a state legislator that what Nebraska really needed was a law mandating that all schoolchildren begin the day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. He was shocked, shocked to discover, while “doing research one day for a flag-folding ceremony he does for school children” (!!!), that Nebraska was one of six states (plus the District of Columbia) that didn’t force children to mindlessly mouth the words of a patriotic America Prayer every morning.
“I said, ‘This is crazy,'” Zierke told the Journal Star, and so he went to rightwing state Sen. Tony Fulton to complain. Fulton agreed that the madness had to stop and introduced the bill. And what beautiful thoughts Zierke has about the Pledge!
Reciting the pledge teaches patriotism, Zierke said. It instills American exceptionalism. In that moment that kids are saying the pledge, they are thinking about their country. At least that’s the hope.
In Zierke’s mind, it’s also a stepping stone to young people making decisions about how they could serve their country, he said, including stints in the military.
“I don’t want to say my country is slipping away, but teaching patriotism and the flag is not being done,” he said.
He also made it his mission to call and visit schools all over the state to ask if they were already having students recite the pledge, even without a state law. You have to wonder how the hotel’s sales did during that part of his mission. While the law failed, Zierke and other patriots persuaded the state Board of Education in 2012 to mandate the Pledge, although teachers and children are allowed to opt out instead of being shot like the cowards and commie scum they clearly are.
And now Zierke’s pushing the loyalty oath, a wonder of 1951 paranoid American jingoism, which is the best jingoism there is:
I, ………., do believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; an indissoluble nation of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I acknowledge it to be my duty to inculcate in the hearts and minds of all pupils in my care, so far as it is in my power to do, (1) an understanding of the United States Constitution and of the Constitution of Nebraska, (2) a knowledge of the history of the nation and of the sacrifices that have been made in order that it might achieve its present greatness, (3) a love and devotion to the policies and institutions that have made America the finest country in the world in which to live, and (4) opposition to all organizations and activities that would destroy our present form of government.
Now how could anyone object to that? Teachers should probably have to sign that daily, just to be sure.