Last week, I posted about an airman who was denied reenlistment because he refused to swear an oath to God as the Air Force’s policy required. In other contexts, courts have ruled a secular alternative must be available. All of the other military services make optional such reference to God in the oath. Now, the Air Force has reportedly followed suit, updating their policy to allow omission of the words “so help me God.”
The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred. All of the other military services have allowed the alternate language for years.
“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen’s rights are protected.”
This is the right decision, not only to protect the religious freedom of humanists and atheists, but also those including Quakers whose religious teachings prohibit oaths to God. The only question is why was the Air Force so far behind the other services in making this modern adjustment?