Air Force Boots Atheist Who Won't Say 'God' in Oath

Critics say requirement is 'unconstitutional,' secular oath should be allowed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Suggested by RossR
Posted Sep 8, 2014 2:00 PM CDT
Air Force Boots Atheist Who Won't Say 'God' in Oath
In this Saturday, July 21, 2012, file photo, members of the US Air Force Thunderbirds perform at the Air Expo 2012 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.   (AP Photo/Lui Kit Wong, Tacoma News Tribune, File)

Critics are decrying an "unconstitutional" Air Force decision to refuse an airman's re-enlistment after the unnamed officer crossed out the words "so help me God" in the oath papers he had to sign, reports the Air Force Times. Although the Air Force hasn't confirmed details, a spokesman told the Washington Post last week that "the airman’s term of service expires in November 2014" and he has till then to complete the form in compliance with current code. However, a lawyer for the American Humanist Association tells Al Jazeera that "the Air Force cannot compel anyone to swear to God as a condition of enlistment" and that "doing so violates … the First Amendment."

The news of the airman's rejection has turned into even more of a head-scratcher because the Air Force seemed to get more lax about the wording last year, allowing troops to omit the reference to God if they chose, reports the Air Force Times. The AHA attorney tells the Daily Beast that she doesn't know why there's been another reversal and that "no one has been able to clearly articulate why they took that [option] out." The AHA contends that the airman—and others in similar situations—should be able to swap in secular wording when taking the Air Force oath and has warned that "commanding officers may be sued in federal court" otherwise. The Air Force, meanwhile, says its hands are tied in changing the oath without a congressional OK, notes the Times. (More re-enlistment stories.)

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