Air Force Officials Rightly Remove God from Group’s Patch

The U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office patch used to look like:

The motto is “Opus Dei Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus,” Latin for “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.”

Except they’re not doing “God’s work.” I’ll be honest; I read the description of what the RCO does and it still doesn’t make much sense to me, but it’s pretty evident God is nowhere to be found in that office. So there’s no reason for the patch to say that.

The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers pointed that out to Air Force officials and — surprisingly — they changed the logo!

Here’s the new patch:

In Latin, it reads “Miraculi Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus.” In English: “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.”

It’s not really any better. The RCO isn’t performing miracles any more than it’s doing God’s work — but if you see the word as a metaphor, I suppose it’s a small step up.

In any case, it’s probably a net positive since Republican Congressperson Randy Forbes is irate:

‘It is most egregious,’ Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes told Fox News. ‘The Air Force is taking the tone that you can’t even use the word “God”.’

‘(It is a) bridge too far in terms of the rights of men and women who serve in our services and their ability to express their faith.’

Right. Because we all know how hard Christians have it in this country when they want to express their faith…

Forbes sent a letter (PDF) to Air Force officials, co-signed by 35 other members of Congress, asking them to reverse their decision. If the officials are interested in doing the right thing, they’ll toss that letter right in the trash where it belongs.

No one is taking away any rights from religious military personnel. They’re simply removing an unnecessary reference to God in a logo that’s meant to be a symbol for everyone in the Air Force, not just the religious people.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/PerDSmith Per Smith

    It’s amazing that 35 congressman want the patch to bare a statement that more obviously violates the establishment clause than anything I’ve seen – “Doing God’s work with other people’s money.” So not only are they promoting God as a part of a public organization, but these senators want this organization to use our tax money to do God’s work? It’s amazing how people only care about the sanctity of the constitution when what it says can be construed to align with their personal interests.

    • Alex

      Religious fundie: God likes what I like and hates whatever I don’t like.
      Political fundie: Constitution supports what I support and prohibits whatever I don’t like.

      Same shit, different asshole.

      • Annie

        But sometimes both are rolled into one.  Joke or not, the slogan (both before and after) is lame. 

  • StarStuff

    With other people’s money?  That might even be worse…

  • the captain

    Seems like they couldn’t get a good Latinist the second time around.  Should be “miracula”.  As it is, it reads something like: “of a miracle–we carry (something) out with the money of others.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Andreas-Miller/1193275073 Ian Andreas Miller

       Not to mention that “cum” shouldn’t be used for an ablative of means, and “alienum” should be “aliena” to agree with “pecunia.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5KGZH6OZGNABUMZRJA46XUMXE Brad
  • Michael

    Translating “miracula” as “miracle” is a mistake. It’s better translated as “wonder”.

  • Anonymous

    >Latin for “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.”

    Sounds like it should be a slogan for the myriad of churches in my area:)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    It is now de rigueur for Republican politicians to strike a phony pose of indignation every time their Sky Spook isn’t acknowledged front and center by any and every government agency. Wasting government time and money costs them nothing personally. I think that most of them quite literally don’t give a damn about these things, and they know that most of their silly bills and resolutions are going to be passed over in committee or thrown out in court. It’s all about pandering to the religious right for a few more votes.

  • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

    Well, Representative Forbes, we considered your suggestion and have reversed our decision, but we also think it flows a little more nicely when worded, “Doing Allah’s Work with Other People’s Money.” 

    NOW what are you complaining about?

  • Anonymous

    It’s a silly fight.  The “Doing God’s Work with other people’s money”  bit is an old military joke.

    • http://twitter.com/LaMenta3 Hillary

       Precisely. I don’t think the message was ever religious…more tongue-in-cheek. Context matters.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      So a military agency uses a joke for its motto. Does that mean the agency is also a joke? 

      I’ll be honest; I read the description of what the RCO does and it still doesn’t make much sense to me, but it’s pretty evident God is nowhere to be found in that office.

      I read and re-read their description, especially their transparent-as-cement “mission statement.” As best as I can interpret, they pull strings and cut corners to get nasty things done quickly, when the Air Force would otherwise be bogged down in its own bureaucratic paralysis.

      If they want a joke for a motto, what’s Latin for “We put cruise missiles up camel’s asses.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Andreas-Miller/1193275073 Ian Andreas Miller

         “If they want a joke for a motto, they should use Latin to say, “We put cruise missiles up camels’ asses.” ”

        Missilia automata in culis camelorum ponimus.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          Thanks, Ian, that’s hilarious!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    One could make a case that the RCO is worshiping technology, a GOP no-no.  Perhaps Rep. Forbes would like to explain what is “godly” about an orbiting weapons delivery system.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    http://www.atheistrev.com/2011/02/idiot-of-week-rep-j-randy-forbes.html

    It seems Randy Forbes is a genuine lunatic, this isn’t just political. 

  • Anonymous

    Look, guys IT IS A JOKE!! It always was a joke. Now it’s even more of a joke, thanks to this massively time-wasting, self-serving group letter. Can we focus on something important now – like jobs?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593675787 Glenn Davey

      No. We’re militant atheists. We don’t give a shit about jobs. Only about the specific wording of public things. So fuck off with your big picture and your “priorities”…

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthonyjwmoss Tony Moss

    I think that “Doing God’s Work with other peoples’ money” is a fine slogan.  It certainly isn’t promoting religion, or at least not the way I read it.  It comes across as wry and sly.  Now “Doing miracles with other peoples’ money”  is a much more religious sentiment in my opinion.  Should have kept the slogan.

    • Michael

      Except it’s better translated as “Working wonders with other people’s money” which works just as well.

  • http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/blog JD

    It seems some agree the original complaint was a hypersensitive overreaction.  Getting worked up over the word “god”, especially when it isn’t used in the sense of an actual deity, is what Forbes was referring to.  The desire for censorship by some atheists is so strong they can’t stand to see the word “god” in any language under any circumstances, apparently.

    And to Felyx Leiter in re: “Allah,” it already said that.  The English “God” in Latin is “Dei.” Guess what the Arabic “Allah” is in Latin.

    http://christianfighterpilot.com/blog/2012/02/08/rep-randy-forbes-calls-on-air-force-to-put-god-back-in-motto/

    • Dan

      JD, I really tire of you using your rank to push your anti-Constitution, theocratic views on us. You have lied about numerous things, including the Rock the Fort concert and have personally slandered many atheists proudly serving in the military who simply want equal protection under the law. You won’t even stand up for the Constitution you swore to defend when you became an officer. Shame on you.

    • Dan

      Also, Censorship: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Michael Caton

    Speaking of religion and the military, out in San Diego today there was a pro-cross rally at the Mt. Soledad memorial, and a counter-rally.  Our turnout was excellent.  What we saw was that the people at the monument view cross removal as equal to removing the monument totally, which is not at all what anyone wants to do.  We had a good showing and got some people interested in our message.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Good work. Thank you.

  • Sharon Hypatia

    Odd how the conversation never goes:  Promiscuously putting “god” in every possible government document and into every possible government service is as pious and reverent as a 5-year old plastering scratch and sniff stickers all over their bedroom furniture.  True xtians shouldn’t be wasting the time and money doing such silly and frivolous things……
    But maintaining the bully pulpit over non-xtians is just too tempting, I guess.

    But if a letter from the MAAF or the FFRF would turn the economy around and create jobs, I’d be all over them writing those letters like white on rice!

  • Anonymous

    “Doing God’s Work with other people’s money” is not an endorsement of using taxpayer dollars for religious ends?

    Right. Okie Dokey.

  • Guest

    And the Salvation Army snaps up the old motto in…3…2…1….

  • Wheeler2205

    One comment up there is correct…it is a stupid fight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Andreas-Miller/1193275073 Ian Andreas Miller

    Both versions have some terrible Latin.

    They couldn’t just hire someone who actually knows the language?

    I would have done the new version for free.  Seriously.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRIVHGSVTSORER3JJOS4TF3UUA Justin

    I’ve read the comments on other news websites about this and they were screaming bloody blue murder.  None of them seemed to remember when the fundamentalist Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy were trying to drive out anyone who wasn’t “Christian enough”. If you were not a hard-line Christian, let alone Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, atheist or an agnostic, they would set out to make your life a living hell and try to get you to resign. Even those who were already Christian were pressured to go the fundamentalist route. In a classic case of overkill, when all that came out publicly, the Air Force Academy did a 180 and now this policy is in place.

    We have separation of church and state for a reason. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean someone who also calls themselves a Christian doesn’t like your particular flavor of Christianity and decides to persecute you. Religious wars are some of the bloodiest known to history. I would leave God in the USAF logo because that is a part of its history. But unless you’ve been persecuted for your religious beliefs, you don’t understand how what you believe in can turn on you.


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