COLORADO SPRINGS — The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado is considering dropping God from its cadet oath after an organization that fights for the separation of church and state lodged a complaint with officials.
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.
While the poster was taken down in response, the academy is considering removing God from the oath as well.
“The honor review committee … had an in-depth discussion about the honor code oath,” Major Brus Vidal wrote in a statement. “They considered a range of options, and some of those options will be presented to the academy leaders and, ultimately, the academy superintendent for a decision.”
“We need to be respectful of all people of faith and all people of no faith,” academy spokesman David Cannon added to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Our goal is to do the right thing for the Air Force Academy.”
The code was adopted in 1956 and was enforced at the academy in 1984 when nearly 20 seniors were discovered to be cheating on a physics exam.
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.”
But Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice says that Weinstein is wrong in his assessment.
“Don’t be bullied by my friend Mikey Weinstein,” he told reporters. “The fact of the matter is [that] you cannot say there is a serious Establishment Clause violation by the phrase ‘So help me God,’ or the president of the United States would be violating it when they take the oath of office.”
Reaction to the controversy has been mixed.
“So because you are a cadet in a military school you should be forced to take on oath to God?” one commenter asked. “Religion should be a private issue away from school and work, not part of an oath you are required to take for your education (school) for which you are paid (work).”
“This is utterly disgusting!” another commenter stated. “Go ahead; keep on taking God out of everything and He will stop blessing this country. It is already happening.”