Recently, I read an article from the Huffington Post that stated that an airman was denied re-enlistment because he lined through the “so help me God” reference in his re-enlistment contract. Fearing that I was being set up by one of those satirical sites, I looked to find a second source for the information and saw a very similar article on the on-line version of the Air Force Times. I’m still a bit skeptical but it appears as if the facts are correct. The Air Force has modified AFI 36-2606 to include the phrase “so help me God.” According to the Air Force Times article, the change occurred October 30, 2013.
As a retired United States Air Force officer, I’ve administered the enlistment oath many times. On one occasion, a U.S. Navy recruiter saw me at the CIA headquarters asked me to administer the oath of enlistment to a young Navy reservist. We stood next to a handy American flag in one of the alcoves, performed the ceremony, and I was off to my meeting. In every case, swearing to God was optional as it should be.
Title 10 of the U.S. Code Section 502, notwithstanding there is in our U.S. Constitution the words, “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The oath of the President of the United States, as specified within the Constitution, does not require “so help me God.”
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The spokesman for the Air Force states that there is no option and the airman must state the “so help me God phrase” or leave the Air Force. No one is saying why the rules were changed last October but I’d like to know who is responsible. For the 27 years that I served, this was not a requirement. Now the Air Force is stating that its hands are tied and that it is a “statutory requirement” is a bit ingenuous. The result is that an airman is denied enlistment and must fight the legal battles aided by the AHA and perhaps the ACLU to make things right. Hey! This is BULL SHIT! The Secretary of the Air Force, who will be hearing from me, is also sworn to support the Constitution. Why doesn’t she fight this stupid battle and let the airmen under her command do the job they are dedicated to do? She is responsible for “the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of it’s more than 690,ooo active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families.” Her name is Deborah Lee James and her address is:Deborah L. James Secretary of the Air Force 1670 Air Force Pentagon Washington, DC 20330-1670
Drop her a line. Tell her to fix this for this young Airman and let him do his job. There are many currently serving that are not comfortable swearing to a non-existent deity. Their duty is to their country and to the people they serve with, not an imaginary, celestial sky fairy. Their word is their bond to serve and support the constitution. WHY ARE WE WASTING TIME AND EFFORT ON THESE THINGS THAT WE SETTLED LONG AGO?