Last week, we learned that an anonymous service member at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada was denied reenlistment because he refused to sign an oath that included the phrase “So help me God.”
Yesterday, an Air Force official told Stars and Stripes that it had asked the Defense Department’s top lawyer for advice on what to do:
“The opinion that we’re seeking will help inform future decisions and the latitude that can be taken with the oath,” Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said Tusday. “But the Air Force has to comply with law.”
This is unbelievable.
It’s like a teacher asking the principal for advice on whether a student should be punished even though he didn’t do anything wrong — you can do it, but a small dose of common sense would have worked just fine. Or how about just asking a random stranger next to you? That’ll do it, too.
It’s not like you need a brilliant legal mind to figure this one out. It’s that easy of a question. And the Air Force is the only branch of the military where this is even an issue:
… a defense official who discussed the matter on the condition of anonymity said the airman’s right to modify the oath to fit his lack of religious belief is not in question outside the Air Force.
“I’ll tell you that there is no legal requirement to say ‘So help me God’ in any federal oath/affirmation by a person taking the oath,” the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said in an email. “That is, saying ‘So help me God’ in any federal oath is optional at the discretion of the person taking the oath (not the person administering the oath).”
We know how this will play out. The Defense Department will say, “Why the hell are you bothering us? Of course he can reenlist!” And the Air Force will act like they were just making sure everything was done properly — without apologizing or admitting they screwed this one up.
It would be a lot easier if they just skipped all the theater and let the service member get back to work.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)