Tags: Air Force | oath | God | op-out

Air Force Drops Mandatory 'God' in Oath for Enlistees

By    |   Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 08:25 PM

An atheist airman who refused to take the Air Force oath with the phrase "so help me God" will be allowed to re-enlist, and the same opt-out is now available to all service members and future recruits, the Air Force Times reports.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced on Tuesday that the change is effective immediately.

"We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously," James said.

With that reversal, the Air Force became the last U.S. armed service to drop the requirement to recite or sign off on the phrase "so help me God" as part of the official oath.

The Air Force was in a stand-off with an airman who had two choices: take the full oath — "so help me God" included — or be denied re-enlistment.

The unnamed airman, stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, had crossed out the phrase on his re-enlistment form and declined to utter the four words.

He was assisted in his challenge by the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which released a statement on Wednesday praising the decision.

"We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed our client has a First Amendment right to omit the reference to a supreme being in his re-enlistment oath," an attorney for the center said. "We hope the Air Force will respect the constitutional rights of atheists in the future."

The airman's attorneys had given the Air Force until Friday, Sept. 19, to relent or face a court challenge, the Air Force Times reported.

The Air Force's decision was something of a double reversal. The service had previously allowed enlistees to forgo "so help me God" orally or in writing.

But last October, it changed course and declared that the phrase was mandatory, based on a revised interpretation of the U.S. Code, the Air Force Times reported.

A service members' organization that supported the airman's challenge, the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, issued a statement saying it "can now tell its members, deployed with the U.S. Air Force around the world, that they need not choose between their beliefs and their service to the nation."

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An atheist airman who refused to take the Air Force oath with the phrase "so help me God" will be allowed to re-enlist, and the same opt-out is now available to all service members and future recruits, the Air Force Times reports.
Air Force, oath, God, op-out
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2014-25-17
Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 08:25 PM
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