Air Force Rules 'So Help Me God' Optional in Oath

Those enlisting now have the choice to omit the reference to a supreme being
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2014 4:27 AM CDT
Cadets take oath of office after the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado on May 23, 2012.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(Newser) – The Air Force says it will now allow men and women taking a service oath to omit the words "so help me God" since an airman in Nevada was recently refused re-enlistment after striking out the words on his paperwork. "We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement yesterday. The force added that the Nevada airman's paperwork "will be processed to completion."

The Washington Post reports that Air Force rules for the oath of enlistment and officer appointment used to allow people to refrain from using the phrase "so help me God" for personal reasons, but that this exception "quietly disappeared" in October 2013. "There has always been a respect for those who are not theists in our country," the head of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty tells Fox News. "We want those airmen who believe in God to be able to say these words and we respect the right of those who abstain." The 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." The Air Force Times notes that the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps already allow "so help me God" to be omitted.

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