The Air Times reports that the text of the oath (which is part of DD Form 4) reads:
“I, [insert name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”The story goes on to say that the American Humanists Association (AHA) is threatening to sue the federal government if they do not allow the airman to re-enlist before his current enlistment period expires in November 2014 with a pledge that does not violate his religious freedom. Then this happened:
The AHA said the airman crossed out the last four words in that oath, and was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept it for that reason. 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 said that is unconstitutional and unacceptable and that Article VI of the Constitution prohibits requiring religious tests to hold an office or public trust.
The Air Force used to allow airmen to omit the phrase “so help me God” if they so chose. But an Oct. 30, 2013, update to Air Force Instruction 36-2606, which spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, dropped that option. Since that quiet update to the AFI, airmen have been required to swear an oath to a deity when they enlist or reenlist.
The Air Force said they are going to try and get an interpretation from the Department of Defense General Counsel to find out what position they can take. It seems pretty clear that if Title 10 USC 502 requires the swearing of an oath to a deity that it is unconstitutional on its face. The problem is that the federal judiciary tends to defer to the military and executive branch on these kinds of questions.
The Air Force said last week that the change was made to bring its oath in line with the statutory requirement under Title 10 USC 502. The Air Force said it cannot change its AFI to make “so help me God” optional unless Congress changes the statute mandating the oath.
It is always astonishing to me that people who believe in God say that they are the oppressed group when it is clear to any impartial observer that the decks are stacked against non-believers.
Hat/tip to Joe.My.God