Subscribe

Air Force allows atheists to skip oath to God

The US Air Force policy change comes after an atheist airman in Nevada struck out the words 'so help me God' on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork.

U.S. airmen taking their enlistment or officer appointment oaths can omit the words "so help me God" if they choose, Air Force officials announced Wednesday.

The policy change comes after an atheist airman in Nevada struck out the words on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork and ran afoul of a policy that prohibits omissions. The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred. All of the other military services have allowed the alternate language for years.

"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. "We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen's rights are protected."

The case involved a technical sergeant who initially enlisted in 2003, before he was an atheist, according to attorney Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. But his views changed, and he crossed out the words "so help me God" when he filled out reenlistment paperwork recently.

"It was important from the standpoint of honesty," Miller said of her client, who she said wants to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "He can't take an oath for a God he doesn't believe in."

Military officials said the airman's unit was unable to process the documents because of the policy against omissions. Miller said he was told by his commanders Aug. 25 that he must swear to God or leave the service.

The humanist group sent letters to the Air Force threatening to sue if the airman couldn't re-enlist without saying "so help me God" by Sept. 19.

He was informed of the policy change Wednesday, Miller said, and is "feeling that his rights have really been vindicated."

The decision was applauded by Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, whose congressional district includes Creech Air Force Base.

"We celebrate the diverse beliefs and views that members of the Air Force hold," he said in a statement. "Our freedoms are only truly valuable when we respect them in practice."

___

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK