Rep. Johnson Still Trying to Make Religious Oaths Mandatory

Rep. Sam Johnson, one of the more extreme theocrats in the House, is still trying to pass a bill that would make religious oaths mandatory for all military personnel. He submitted this bill in response to a decision by the Air Force to make saying “so help me God” optional when officers are being sworn in. He defends it with the usual lies and bad arguments.

In response to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s unilateral decision to make the phrase, ‘so help me God’ of the Cadet Honor Oath optional, I introduced H.R. 3416, a bill that would require congressional approval prior to any change to Oaths of Office. I was joined by original co-sponsor Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22).

Our Founding Fathers declared we are, “One nation under God,” and you better believe I’ll fight like mad to keep it that way.

No, they didn’t. That phrase came from Congress in 1954, more than a century and a half after the founding fathers wrote the constitution. A constitution, by the way, that explicitly makes illegal religious tests for holding any public office, including military commissions.

I can tell you from experience, there are no atheists in foxholes.

The existence of actual living, breathing atheists in foxholes notwithstanding, of course. Those people magically disappear the moment Johnson declares that they do not exist.

I spent nearly 7 years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam – more than half of that time in solitary confinement. Our captors tried to break our spirits daily. One year, a group of POWs in the prison we dubbed the Hanoi Hilton decided to defy our captors and hold a church service. They hated that we found unity and strength in God and one another. As armed guards surrounded us, a fellow POW pounced onto the poor excuse for a bed and belted out the national anthem and “God Bless America.” I remember how the magnitude of the moment and the magic of the music overpowered any illness or ache. For a fleeting time, we felt strong and faithful. It was truly the greatest gift each of us had during those endless days of torture, isolation, and starvation. It’s not only my experience, but that of my fellow POWs, veterans, and those currently in harm’s way that make “so help me God” vital to the oath. I urge my colleagues to join this effort to protect the legacy of freedom of religion.

I’ll take non sequiturs for $1000, Alex. Let’s try to state this in logical form:

1. Singing God Bless America helped me emotionally when I was a POW.

2. Therefore every military officer should be forced to swear an oath to God even if they don’t believe in that God, so we should require them to lie to become an officer.

How on earth does that conclusion follow from that premise? Only in the mind of a wingnut.

“It was disheartening to see the Air Force Academy succumb to anti-religious zealotry from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF),” Pete Olson said. “As a former Navy pilot, I can speak to the value of allowing God to be present for our military men and women.”

Uh, what? If officers are allowed to omit “so help me God” from their oaths, God can’t be “present” for them or any other member of the military? That’s quite a weak god you’ve got there, indistinguishable from a non-existent one.

The military personnel being trained to defend the rights of Americans should be able to exercise their religious convictions by affirming their oath with so help me God.

You mean like they are? See, that’s what “optional” means. It means they have the option of saying it. No one is preventing them from saying it. The only ones whose religious freedom is being violated are those you want to force to say it. Thinking is clearly not their strong suit.

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  • scienceavenger

    I can tell you from experience, there are no atheists in foxholes

    Really? From experience? All hail Sam Johnson, magic man, who is able to experience every foxhole on earth.

    Of course, I doubt that was meant as a factual statement, because, I don’t know, its fucking stupid?

  • busterggi

    “Thinking is clearly not their strong suit.”

    That’s because theofascists keep their thinking in their Sunday clothes and so can only think one day a week – and then they aren’t permitted to think on that one day.

  • colnago80

    What the fuck does this asshole know about foxholes? He was an Airforce Pilot who was shot down over the then North Vietnam. I really love it when fliers, whether Navy or Airforce purport to speak for grunts on the ground.

  • John Pieret

    Translation: ‘The only relious freedom worth having is MY freedon to make you follow my religion.’

  • tubi


    What the fuck does this asshole know about foxholes?

    Maybe he meant there are no atheists in cockpits?

    Also, he clearly knows fuck-all about anything, so…

  • Abby Normal

    Forcing others to pay homage to their god has been a Christian tradition for over a thousand years. It wasn’t so long ago that kings and peasants alike trembled at the name of Jesus, fearing the wrath of his vast armies of fanatical followers. But little by little that tradition of coerced participation has been whittled away. What has the world come to when Christians can’t even require a harmless oath from non-believers? Why must Christians give up their long practiced religious liberty, their sacred traditions? Why must non-believers be so intolerant?

  • theschwa

    “Uh, what? If officers are allowed to omit “so help me God” from their oaths, God can’t be “present” for them or any other member of the military?”

    Yes. God operates under rules similar to a vampire. He cannot enter unless invited in.

  • Synfandel

    I urge my colleagues to join this effort to protect the legacy of freedom of religion.

    …by denying graduating cadets freedom of religion. Do think he hears the organ grinder playing in his head?

  • Nemo

    God operates under rules similar to a vampire. He cannot enter unless invited in.

    Other ways Jesus is like a vampire:

    – Rose from the dead; immortal.

    – Promises his followers immortality (after death), if they drink his blood.

    – Avoids the light of day, and vanishes if you try to hold a mirror up to him.

  • democommie

    I don’t know if Mr. Paine was religious or spiritual (nor, I think, does anyone else that didn’t actually spend time with him).

    But this:

    “Sam Johnson, a decorated war hero and native Texan, ranks among the few Members of Congress to fight in combat. During his 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Representative Johnson flew combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He endured nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, including 42 months in solitary confinement. Following his distinguished military career, Sam established a home-building business in North Dallas from scratch and served in the Texas State legislature.”

    from Johnson’s own bio, here:

    makes it pretty clear to me that Sam’s next foxhole will be his first.

    I’m not the first one to notice that Sam was a pilot instead of a grunt in a rifle company,but, really, Sam, wtf? If you had just said that there were no atheists at the Hanoi Hilton, you’d still be a hyperbolic, lying piece-of-shit OWFK but it might almost be defensible.

    FWIW, I wonder if he’d like to bomb this place:;jsessionid=50BB359CD8E6623A93CBC9517EF9F8A2.etc43

    * Old White Fucking KKKristian

  • democommie

    I wonder if Sam would like to have a photo-op singing “God Bless America” while bouncing on what passes for a bed in this room:

  • Modusoperandi


  • Synfandel

    I can tell you from experience, there are no atheists in foxholes.

    Of course, like most Christians, he will assume that everyone around him is a Christian unless repeatedly told otherwise.

  • had3

    He meant “except the Muslims” cuz they weren’t praying to the right god, and the Hindus, and Buddhists, and the Mormons…

  • gopiballava

    Weren’t the vietcong a bunch of godless commie atheists? Didn’t they have foxholes?

  • tfkreference

    I think Hitchens once said, “There are atheists in foxholes; there are no atheists flying airplanes into buildings,”

  • democommie


    Do you know anyone in UnHolywood? I’ve got a half-done screenplay whose author (moi) just needs Dom P, hookers and blow to unlock the writer’s cramp. It’s about a madcap but courageous bunch of young zealots who do exactly what you suggest; working title, “Allah, may HIS name be blessed, is my Co-Pilot”.

  • freehand


  • anthonysmith

    Uh, what? If officers are allowed to omit “so help me God” from their oaths, God can’t be “present” for them or any other member of the military?

    That is correct…if you haven’t said “so help me” he is completely unable to help you…it’s a universal religious law. We have gravity, they have this.

  • rikitiki

    Obviously, Johnson has forgotten his oath or thinks it does NOT apply to him:

    “I, (name of Member), 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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

    Rep. Johnson = enemy of the Constitution (domestic variety)

  • radrick11

    As a card carrying minister in the Church of the Subgenious since 1984 would I be able to say “So help me Bob”?

    The Rev. Dr. Dr. RadRick