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Must Postal Workers Take an Oath?

Postal workers have unique access to people’s homes and the ability to deliver dangerous materials to potentially unaware people. Due to the nature of their job, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees must take an oath when they start.

The oath says the person will solemnly swear to:

  • Support and defend the Constitution of the United States
  • Protect the U.S. against all foreign and domestic enemies
  • Be faithful and allegiant to the U.S.
  • Take this oath freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion
  • Faithfully discharge the “duties of the office” of their job

However, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, recently issued a legal opinion about religious objections to this oath.

Objections to Taking the Oath

Some postal workers objected to taking the oath of office. Their complaints focused on:

  • Having to pledge to “support . . . the Constitution”
  • Having to “defend the Constitution”
  • “Bearing true faith and allegiance to” the Constitution

These objections are on the grounds that doing so would violate their religious views. Some religions may:

  1. Forbid military service
  2. Forbid placing an allegiance to any power over God

However, it was concluded that the oath of office would not interfere with applicants’ right to exercise their religious beliefs freely.

The Office of Legal Counsel explained that:

  • Supporting the Constitution “against all enemies” requires that a person follows the nation’s constitutional system of government and its laws. The oath does not create specific responsibilities. Instead, the oath is used to assure the public that workers with positions of public trust will follow the constitutional processes of our system.
  • The reference to “defending the Constitution against all enemies” does not require anyone to take up arms or fight for their country. It only requires that a person abides by the nation’s constitutional system of government. Someone can defend its laws by rejecting the use of force to overthrow it.
  • Pledging that one will “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution does not require one to give up their allegiance to their own religion. The phrase refers only to someone pledging an honest and faithful commitment to the Constitution—as opposed to other temporal powers—not as opposed to God.

Part of the reason for the oath is to ensure a minimal level of loyalty and conscientious conduct on the part of federal employees and officers.

Why the Oath Is Used Today

The USPS has a “…compelling interest in ensuring [through the oath] that prospective employees both support the Constitution and [are] committed to faithfully performing their jobs.” People who commit anti-U.S. acts are banned from holding government office or employment.

These acts can include:

  • Engaging in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution
  • Giving help to enemies of the U.S.

Postal workers must meet specific minimum standards of loyalty. They must support the laws required by all officers of our government.

Positions of Public Trust

Postal employees are in a position of public trust because they have unique access to:

  • Mail
  • Valuable items
  • Social Security checks
  • Tax returns
  • Private correspondence
  • Public building
  • Private homes or buildings

For more information, you can read the entire legal opinion discussing this matter by clicking here.

Protecting Your Civil Rights

Our legal rights, including freedom of religion and other civil rights, can sometimes present complicated questions in the real world. If you have a question about how federal law affects you in your job, contact a civil rights attorney or a labor and employment attorney in your area today.