Atheist Airman

Last month a United States airman was denied reenlistment because of his unwillingness to recite the phrase “so help me God” in his reenlistment oath and his crossing out of the same phrase on his enlistment contract. An airman used to have the option to omit the religious term in his oath but the Air Force changed that policy in October of 2013. The Air Force is the only branch of the American military to require the reference to God and not make it optional.

The subject of religion has always been a matter of much debate and will likely remain so for a long while, but regardless of what you believe, it is wrong to force a belief on someone else.”

— Alec Deyong

Many do not agree with this requirement, including Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center, who said, “The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being…Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.” This rule will most likely not stand because there is rarely, if ever, a requirement to acknowledge a religion’s legitimacy in a federal oath. Five days after the AHA said that it was representing the airman, the Air Force asked the Defense Department’s general counsel for a legal review of the rule.

The place of religion in state and federal institutions such as the Armed Forces and schools has always been debated. Some say that our country was founded on Christian ideals and that we should stick close to our roots while others argue that this idea is outdated and religion has no place in these settings, such as the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in our national Pledge of Allegiance that most public schools have children recite every morning. Some people say this is an example of the government forcing religion on America’s youth. There have been protests and petitioning to make that part of the pledge of allegiance optional or even to remove the reference to the Christian God from the Pledge of Allegiance altogether, using the separation of church and state as reasoning.

The subject of religion has always been a matter of much debate and will likely remain so for a long while, but regardless of what you believe, it is wrong to force a belief on someone else. Any man or woman should be able to enlist to serve our country no matter their beliefs. It is unlikely that the Air Forces policy will stand much longer under the court of law.

UPDATE:

On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Air Force officials announced that “so help me God” is now optional as a part of taking the oath.