COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The resignation letter was short and to the point.

“I can no longer take the oath to defend Ohio’s New Constitution,” Sabrina Warner wrote in her letter announcing her resignation from the state Republican central committee.

It was just days after Ohio voters resoundingly approved an amendment to the state constitution last November guaranteeing access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care. For many, the vote was a victory after the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in 2022.

For Warner, a staunch opponent of abortion, it meant she could no longer defend the Ohio Constitution she had proudly sworn to uphold just over a year earlier.

Throughout modern American history, elected officials have taken oaths to uphold constitutions and have delivered the Pledge of Allegiance without much controversy. Recently, in a handful of cases, these routine practices have fallen victim to the same political divisions that have left the country deeply polarized.

Disagreements over abortion rights, gun control and the treatment of racial minorities are among the issues that have caused several political leaders to say they cannot take the oath or recite the oath.

Some Republicans, including Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a gubernatorial candidate, point to amendments enshrining abortion rights in state constitutions. Ohio’s protections passed last fall, and advocates are proposing an initiative for Missouri’s ballot this year.

Warner signed his resignation letter, effective two days after the Ohio vote, with a biblical reference to “the cowardly, the vile, the murderers” and more “consigned to the lake of fire of burning sulfur.” She did not respond to messages seeking comment.

This month in Tennessee, Democratic Rep. Justin Jones declined to lead the pledge during a legislative session. He gained national attention after being one of two black lawmakers who Republicans briefly expelled from the state House last year after he and two other Democrats participated in a rally advocating for gun control from the House chamber, outraged Republican members because it violated House rules.

Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives are elected to find a minister to lead a prayer before the start of a session and then lead the chamber in pledging the American flag. Just before doing so, Jones presented a handwritten note to the House clerk that said, “I prefer not to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.”

His denial came after criticizing his Republican colleagues for being racist and focusing on what he says are the wrong issues, such as targeting the LGBTQ+ community instead of addressing gun control, nearly a year after six people , including three children, were killed in a Nashville school shooting.

While another Democratic lawmaker, an Army veteran, led the pledge without commenting on Jones’ refusal, Republicans quickly expressed outrage over Jones’ decision. Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison called Jones’ refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance a “disgrace.”

“In my opinion, he should resign. “That’s a disgrace to the veterans and the people who have come before us,” Faison said.

Jones, later responding to Republican criticism, said he “couldn’t bring myself to join their performative patriotism as they continue to support an insurrectionist for president and undermine freedom and justice for all.”

Jones’ stance was reminiscent of a similar one in 2001, when then-Tennessee Rep. Henri Brooks said Republican leaders rebuked her for refusing to join her fellow lawmakers in the pledge. Brooks, who is black, told the media at the time that she had not recited the pledge since she was in third grade and she refused to do so because the American flag represented the colonies that enslaved her ancestors.

Earlier this year, former president donald trump he refused to sign a loyalty oath in Illinois, a pledge that has been in place since the McCarthy era.

The portion Trump left unsigned confirms that the candidates “do not teach or advocate directly or indirectly the overthrow of the government” of the United States or the state or “any unlawful change in the form of their governments by force or any unlawful means.” . Trump, who signed the voluntary oath during his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, has yet to say why he did not sign it this time.

He has faced a series of state lawsuits seeking to exclude him from the ballot in connection with his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a matter currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

His spokesman, Steven Cheung, did not respond to an email seeking comment, but told media outlets in a statement in January: “President Trump will once again be sworn into office on January 20, 2025, and will swear to ‘faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will do to the best of my ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

Unlike the Pledge of Allegiance, refusing to take the oath often carries the highest price of not being able to hold elected office.

In Missouri, Ashcroft drew attention in October when he suggested he might not be able to be sworn in as governor if voters protect abortion rights in the state Constitution.

“Every time a state official is sworn in, we take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and the state of Missouri,” he told reporters after an abortion-related court hearing. “If I can’t do that, then I would have to leave my position. “I can’t take an oath and then refuse to do what I said I would do.”

The issue has also rankled Republicans in the Missouri Senate. State Sen. Rick Brattin, head of the state chapter of the Freedom Caucus, said that if voters in November approve a proposed ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution, “an oath would have to be taken to protect and defend death.” . of the unborn.”

Similar concerns were expressed at the federal level in the landmark Dobbs case, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

The Abortion Abolition Foundation argued that the high court’s decision in the case would play a crucial role in the degree to which people respect the Constitution. “American public officials are obligated to follow the Court to the extent that the Court follows the Constitution, but no further,” the group and other abortion opponents wrote in a court-friendly brief.

Chris Redfern said Republicans’ concerns about adding abortion rights to a state constitution stand in stark contrast to how Democrats handled a previous flashpoint. He was elected chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party in 2005 after voters inserted a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution. He said he doesn’t remember any of the amendment’s opponents considering renouncing their oaths or resigning because of it.

“In the old days, before the Tea Party and after Trump, there was a seriousness about the Constitution and taking the oath on Inauguration Day,” said Redfern, a former state legislator. “Especially with the polarization that Donald Trump has brought forward, I don’t think there is respect for these types of instruments. There is certainly no adherence, but I don’t think legislators really care that much. What they do know is that they have to take an oath to receive your payment every two weeks.”


Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee.

By Sam