The Air Force Academy announced Friday that it will now be optional for cadets to recite “so help me God” at the end of its honor oath. The decision comes after a complaint was filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a patriotic organization that advocates for the separation of church and state in the military.
In a statement issued by the Air Force Academy, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said:
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. So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the honor oath with ‘so help me God.’
However, Military Religious Freedom Foundation President Mikey Weinstein said the academy’s decision isn't enough: “The Air Force Academy took the cowardly route,” Weinstein said after the announcement. “From our perspective, it still creates a tremendous amount of unconstitutional turmoil ... for anyone who is a religious objector.”
Previously, Weinstein told The Colorado Springs Gazette "To tie the honor code to a religious test violates the no-establishment clause of the Constitution."
Adopted in 1984 and unchanged since, the honor oath reads, via Air Force Academy's Cadet Handbook:
We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.
The academy says cadets are required to take the oath once, when they formally enter the school after boot camp.
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