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An oath state workers are required to take swearing to "defend" the state and federal constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic" almost caused two Quaker employees who rejected it on religious grounds to lose their jobs.

Now the state Senate has voted to give some Californians the option to pass on taking it.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D- Long Beach) wrote the measure after the two Quakers were briefly denied employment last year by the California State University system, one involving the campus in Fullerton.

They felt the oath conflicted with their religious beliefs. The two were hired last year after some legal wrangling.

Lowenthal said the Quakers, committed to pacifism, interpret the oath as obligating them to participate in war or violence.

"We should not be asking people to violate their faith in order to work for the state of California as long as they will uphold the laws of the state," Lowenthal said on the Senate floor this week.

Under SB 115, which now goes to the Assembly, public employees would be able to take or sign a modified oath that commits to upholding the constitutions of the United States and California without the "defending" provision.

The Senate vote was 21 to 11, with Republicans opposing the change.

"Removing the requirement that an oath be taken to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States' for qualification for public service strikes at the very heart of our great country," said Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta).

-- Patrick McGreevy


No retrial for freed Marine

A Camp Pendleton Marine recently released from prison after a military appeals court overturned his rape and assault conviction will not be retried, the Marine Corps announced Friday.

Sgt. Brian Foster, 35, was convicted by a military jury in 1999 of raping his wife. He was sentenced to 17 years and freed after serving nine.

But a military appeals court in February overturned the rape conviction, citing lack of evidence and a decision by the judge to allow an expert on sexual assault to testify more as an advocate for the prosecution than a neutral observer.

In ordering Foster released from the prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., the court ruled that the Corps could retry Foster on charges of assault and making threats. The charges arose during a bitter divorce and custody battle.

Brig. Gen. Robert Ruark, the convening authority in the case, has decided against a retrial, the Corps announced. When he was charged, Foster was a military police officer at Camp Pendleton. Since being released from prison, he has been assigned to a mobilization command in Kansas City. Ruark said Foster is due back pay and allowance, which reportedly could exceed $250,000.