COLORADO SPRINGS — The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado has decided to make the phrase ‘So help me God’ optional in its cadet oath after an organization that fights for the separation of church and state lodged a complaint with officials.
As previously reported, the situation began when the academy sent photographs of its new prep school to a local newspaper, which included a snapshot of a poster that contained the honor oath.
“We will not lie, steal nor cheat, nor tolerate anyone among us who does,” the oath states. “Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably. So help me God.”
A writer at the newspaper sent the photograph of the poster to Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who in turn filed a complaint with the Air Force Academy.
Weinstein says that mandating the phrase “So help me God” violates the United States Constitution. In a discussion Wednesday evening on FOX’s Kelly File with Megyn Kelly, Weinstein was asked why he would not support allowing an opt-out for some cadets. He asserted that the phrase needed to go altogether because it is unlawful.
“Well, it’s like saying, ‘Why don’t you just opt out of not robbing a bank?’ Because robbing a bank violates the law,” he said. “[H]istorically, going back to 1789 when there was first a military oath, nobody had to have an oath. It didn’t happen until 1862.”
While the poster was taken down in response, the academy’s Honor Review Committee also met to discuss Weinstein’s concerns about the oath itself. On Friday, it released a statement outlining that the committee has decided—as Kelly suggested on her broadcast—to make “So help me God” optional in the oath.
“Here at the Academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, airmen and civilian airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference—or not,” stated Superintendent Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson. “So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the honor oath with ‘so help me God.'”
“The fact that the oath is optional will be communicated in honor lessons, leadership lessons, and religious respect lessons during the summer (cadet basic military training) so all trainees will understand prior to taking the Cadet Honor Oath that the final clause will be completely optional,” Major Brus Vidal outlined further to reporters.
He stated that the person administering the oath, the Cadet Wing honor chair, will also have the option of whether or not to mention God.
But Weinstein says that he is unhappy with the outcome of the decision as he believes the phrase should have been discarded completely.
“What does it mean, ‘optional?'” he asked the Daily Herald. “The best thing is to eliminate it.”
“If the words are still there and you don’t say [them], you turn yourself into a tarantula on a wedding cake,” Weinstein also remarked to CNN.
However, prior to the announcement, some expressed concern that the Air Force Academy might indeed decide to remove God altogether because of Weinstein’s influence.
“These so-called atheists are simply trying to create a state-sanctioned religion of atheism by taking all references to God out of our country’s public discourse,” one commenter named Timothy remarked. “The fact that this bothers them so much in the core of their being that they try to keep removing God from our public places proves they are trying very hard to deny what so many know is true.”