While the state of California may appear progressive, there are still shockingly archaic laws in use, including one that allows public employees to be fired for being a member of the Communist Party. Progress was made Monday after the state Assembly passed a bill stating that being a communist can no longer be a fireable offense for California government employees.
By a small margin, lawmakers approved the bill to nullify part of the law carried out during the Red Scare in the 1940s and ’50s when the fear that communists were trying to infiltrate and take over the government was rampant. The bill, which was drafted by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, will now go to the Senate. If passed there, the bill would eliminate part of the law that allows public employees to be terminated for simply being a member of the Communist Party.
Employees, however, could still be fired for being members of organizations they know to advocate for overthrowing the US government by violence or force.
While the bill would update an outdated provision in state law, there are some Assembly Republicans who feel that the Cold War-era law should remain unchanged. According to Assemblyman Randy Voepel, a Southern California Republican who fought in the Vietnam War, communists in North Korea and China are still ‘a threat.’ Travis Allen, another Assemblyman, and Republican who represents a coastal community in Southern California explained, ‘This bill is blatantly offensive to all Californians. Communism stands for everything that the United States stands against.”
Democratic state Senator Alan Lowenthal called for a similar repeal in 2008, as courts had already declared the longstanding law unconstitutional as a violation of First Amendment rights. “Being a member of the Communist Party in and of itself does not mean you advocate the overthrow of the government,” Lowenthal said in April 2008. He continued, “It doesn’t mean we agree with them, but they’re not a threat to our survival.” Lowenthal now serves as Representative for California’s 47th congressional district and has been since 2013.