Until late 2013, if you were a freshman at the U.S. Air Force Academy, you would have concluded your Basic Cadet Training by reciting this Honor Oath:
“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.”
[In October of 2013], the AFA released a statement saying they had decided to make the final clause of the honor oath optional.
The AFA statement read, in part, “Here at the Academy, we world 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.”
That was a completely sensible change. Religious students are welcome to add in the clause if they choose but no one is forced to say it against their will. Who could possibly be against that?!
Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas), for one.
Johnson just introduced legislation that would prevent any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces from altering their oaths without Congressional approval. It’s a direct response to making “So Help Me God” optional:
“In 2013, the U.S. Air Force Academy made the phrase ‘so help me God’ optional in the oath each cadet takes,” Johnson said. “And why did they do this? Because of one radical atheist group’s demands.”
“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion — but not freedom from religion,” he added. “The moral foundation of our country is in serious danger if we allow radical groups to dictate whether or not we can freely express our religious beliefs. It’s time to take a stand.”
To be clear, if this bill passes, it would make sensible alterations all but impossible. Making “so help me God” optional was good for everybody while the old oath was a slap in the face to atheists who enlisted in the Air Force.
It’s incredible how offended and outraged right-wing fanatics get whenever people opt for more tolerance. Inclusion for all means less Christian privilege for them and they can’t take it. Johnson wants to do everything in his power to preserve Christian hegemony.
This bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, but the proposal itself showcases Johnson’s ignorance. Americans have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Nobody is preventing religious people from expressing their beliefs. This is all about whether they should be allowed to force those beliefs on everyone else.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)