The Virginia Loyalty Oath: More Than A Step Backwards

Image: CCO Public Domain

The Loyalty Oath enacted by Virginia Republicans in December of 2011 is already receiving severe criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. The oath, voted in by the GOP State Central Committee, requires any person voting in the Republican primary on March 6th to sign a statement.  Voters are expected to sign this oath prior to casting their ballots requiring the voter to support the nominated Republican candidate for president.

If they do not sign the oath, their right to vote in the Republican primary election will be rescinded.  The ACLU of Virginia and several top Virginia Republicans are challenging this decision.

GOP Presidential Candidates have already signed a frenzy of pledges such as promising to support the “sanctity” of marriage, fight gay rights, and squash pro-choice options, among other things, if elected.

These oaths and pledges may conjure up images of the Cold War era of the Truman and McCarthy age.  Why?  Because pledging an allegiance to a cause without questions can be a dangerous game.

Loyalty oaths have existed in American history since the settlement of the colonies. According to a legal dictionary, “The Puritans in New England required citizens to pledge their support of the commonwealth and to report any individuals who advocated dissent against the government.”

Following World War II, loyalty oaths were common.  Some government officials feared that Communist sympathizers infiltrated the government and public schools.  For this reason, public employees and teachers were required to sign a loyalty oath to the United States. Much like the loyalty oath under debate today, rights were revoked if an individual refused to sign the pledge.

In the 1940s, teachers and public employees were discharged from their jobs for not signing.  Now in 2012, those who do not sign the loyalty oath in Virginia will be denied the right to vote in the primary.  The unconstitutionality of such oaths is staggering.

The usage of loyalty oaths by today’s Republicans suggests that U.S. politics are antiquated and have failed to evolve since the Puritan and Cold War ages.

An encouraging fact is, though the GOP State Central Committee voted 3-0 to enact the pledge, the oath is receiving significant backlash from political parties, organizations and concerned citizens.  With such a negative response, perhaps the GOP State Central Committee will realize the unconstitutionality of its decision and revoke the Virginia Loyalty Oath before the primary in March.


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  2. Brooklyn Dame says

    The GOP is quite good at getting its members to toe the line. While they have all the immoral and (what should be) illegal ammunition that they need to steer election results their way, I’m sure those who do those kinds of things are thinking that a little bit of ‘signing in blood’ and pledging to a pentagram won’t hurt.


  1. […] Here we are in 2012 and we’re revisiting things that took place during the McCarthy era: loyalty oaths that threaten our ability to function as a democracy and ramped-up requirements that threaten […]