Air Force makes ‘so help me God’ optional in oath

The Air Force is making the phrase “so help me God” optional in its oath, it announced Wednesday, a move that will allow an atheist airman who protested the language to reenlist.

“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.”

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The Air Force reviewed its policies after an airman in Nevada “struck out” the phrase in his reenlistment paperwork and did not recite those words during his oath.

Initially, the Air Force wouldn’t process his reenlistment and told him that he’d have to leave the service if he was unwilling to state the full oath, according to Air Force Times.  

He’s now free to reenlist under the new guidelines, as the policy is effective immediately. 

Servicemembers can now choose whether to recite those words when they enlist or receive a new appointment.

“After fighting for our rights, nontheists now again have the status quo in the Air Force, a secular affirmation consistent with other branches of service and our Constitution,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a board member of the American Humanist Association.

This post was updated on Sept. 18 at 10:12 a.m.