AF Academy gives airmen the option to swear 'so help me God' in honor oath
I imagine most cadets will still swear the oath saying "so help me God" so it's not the end of the world. It's not like the Air Force is preventing religious airmen from exercsing their constitutional rights.
But it's indicative of the influence that outside groups can have on our military simply by threatening a lawsuit.
The Air Force Academy on Friday announced that it will now be optional for cadets to recite "so help me God" at the end of its honor oath.
The academy made the change in response to a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state in the military.
"Here at the academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, airmen and civilian airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference - or not," academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said. "So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the honor oath with 'so help me God.' "
But MRFF President Mikey Weinstein said the academy's decision isn't enough.
"The Air Force Academy took the cowardly route," Weinstein said after the announcement. "From our perspective, it still creates a tremendous amount of unconstitutional turmoil ... for anyone who is a religious objector."
Weinstein pledged earlier in the week to bring a lawsuit against the academy if the religious language is not dropped entirely from the oath.
The academy's honor oath reads: "We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God."
Weinstein said in an interview that the oath's final four words are an illegal violation of Article VI of the Constitution, which states that "no religous test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
"You cannot have anyone swear an oath to a supreme being to take a position in the federal government," Weinstein said. "What we're talking about is civil rights."
Among the options the committee discussed were making no change to the oath, making the "so help me God" portion optional, or striking the entire oath.
But Weinstein said nothing short of eliminating the "so help me God" language from the oath is acceptable. Making it optional would not be good enough, he said, because airmen who chose not to say it would feel pressure.
This is bullying, pure and simple. What evidence does Weinstein have that airmen would feel "pressure" to include the word "God" in the oath? It's nonsense - a projection of his own bias, fear, and bigotry. Let them sue. The fact that the Air Force has made the inclusion of "God" voluntary is probably enough for all but the most rabidly secular judges.
No doubt the Military Religious Freedom Foundation will realize some handsome fundraising totals from the publicity they're getting. Their peculiar view of "religious freedom" notwithstanding, the bottom line for these groups is always to gain notoriety in order to bring in the dollars to help them survive.