U.S. News


'So Help Me God' Optional Again In Air Force Oath

After less than a year the USAF reverses course, no longer requiring 'so help me God' as part of its oath.
Posted at 3:55 PM, Sep 18, 2014

At a time when US airstrikes are the subject of international news, the US Air Force has been embroiled in a different kind of conflict back home. 

ROBIN MEADE, HLN: "Saying 'so help me God' is optional now in the enlistment or officer appointment oaths for the Air Force."

The change comes after an atheist airman challenged the Air Force's interpretation of a military statute, which required "so help me God" as part of its oath. An interpretation made less than year ago in October. (Video via Fox News)

The Air Force had claimed  earlier this month that removing the religious reference from the oath would require an act of Congress. A point with which American Humanist Foundation lawyers — representing the airman —disagreed.

MONICA MILLER, MSNBC: "We disagree completely with that. In fact the statute can reasonably be interpreted as having those words be optional."

Following a legal review by the Department of Defense, the Air Force agreed. But not before religious freedom in the military became a renewed topic of conversation.

The Air Force Times noted that all of the other branches of the military, which are subject to the same statute, allow oath takers the choice not to say "so help me God."

And an op-ed in The Des Moines Register claimed the Air Force's interpretation violated Article VI of the constitution, which provides "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust in the United States."

But The Daily Beast, after interviewing current and former servicemen, said most of them "vigorously defended the air service."

Religion in the military is no stranger to controversy.

Back in 2011, the Air Force drew criticism for an ethics class required for new nuclear missile launch officers that included biblical teachings. 

And in 2008, an Army specialist claimed he was sent home from Iraq after attempting to organize a meeting of atheist soldiers. (Video via ABC News)

Interestingly, two theologians writing on CNN's belief blog suggests that historically Christians would have been reluctant to swear an oath to the military, saying "The Bible seems to suggest that Christians should simply not take oaths at all."

The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel is set to hold a hearing on the topic Friday.