Airman denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’

Airman denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’ (Air Force Times)

“An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was denied reenlistment last month for refusing to take an oath containing ‘so help me God,’ the American Humanist Association said Thursday.

According to the AHA, the unnamed airman was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept his contract because he had crossed out the phrase ‘so help me God.’ The airman was told his only options were to sign the religious oath section of the contract without adjustment and recite an oath concluding with ‘so help me God,’ or leave the Air Force, the AHA said.

The AHA’s letter also called attention to a quiet update last year of Air Force rules governing reenlistments, which now require all airmen to swear an oath to God. Air Force Instruction 36-2606 spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, which all airmen must take when they enlist or reenlist and ends with ‘so help me God.’ The old version of that AFI included an exception:

Note: Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.

That language was dropped in an Oct. 30, 2013, update to the AFI. The relevant section of that AFI now only lists the active-duty oath of enlistment, without giving airmen any option to choose not to swear an oath to a deity.”

This is outrageous and certainly unconstitutional.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller said. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.”

The AHA is planning on suing if the airman is not allowed to reenlist. I hope it doesn’t come to that – I really hope the Air Force will just do the right thing. Because this man did the right thing; he was honest, and he wouldn’t sign an oath he didn’t believe in. This airman is exactly the kind of person I want defending my country.

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