Air Force Academy Makes ‘So Help Me God’ Optional In Its Honor Oath

Until Friday, 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.”

It’s that last clause that Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation fought to remove for so long and they just got their wish:

On Friday, 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.”

This is a completely sensible change. Religious students are welcome to add the clause in if they choose but no one is forced to say it against their will. Who could possibly be against that?!

Oh. Right. Fox News Channel, where Megyn Kelly discussed the story with Mikey Weinstein before the final decision was made:

Oh! And also Fox News Channel, where Gretchen Carlson discussed the story with our friend Dave Muscato of American Atheists and two other religious blowhards (beginning at the 3:56 mark):

Carlson didn’t seem to understand that no one was prohibiting religious cadets from saying the phrase if they wanted to:

Carlson: “America is 78% Christian. Dave, are you honestly gonna tell me, when we have a fighter pilot up trying to save our nation… that he or she will not be able to say ‘So help me God’ and you’re okay with that?”

Muscato: “… there is nothing stopping them from saying that to themselves or even saying it out loud.”

Carlson: “But why does one person go to change what the majority of Americans believe?”

Muscato: “Because we have the First Amendment… Just because you have a majority of Christians in this country doesn’t mean that Christians get to decide what happens for everybody.”

Dave wins this round by being honest.

Every else loses for making this a bigger deal than it really is.

This change in the oath benefits everybody while the old oath was a slap in the face to atheists who enlist in the Air Force. It’s incredible how offended and outraged the 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.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    Yeah, and you should see some of the whining in the comments section of the Colorado Springs Gazette. The good news is the number of locals who are also voices of reason.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      The butt hurt is strong over at The Blaze.

      • WallofSleep

        That must mean today is a day ending in a “Y”.

  • Holytape

    Well, my feelings on this greatly depend on which God they are swearing to. If it’s Yehwah, then why not. If there’s a God that’s down with blowing shit up and killing people, it’s Yahweh. If it’s Jesus, then hell no. Do you want your armed forces turning the other cheek, and tell them blessed are the peacemakers?

    • WallofSleep

      I actually had one guy try to tell me that whole “turn the other cheek” thing was not a call for peace or pacifism, but a martial challenge. He explained that slapping a man on one side of the face meant that the slapper considered the man beneath him, like a slave. However, if slapped on the other side of the face, it meant that the slapper considered the man an equal of sorts, and was honorably challenging the slapped man to a fight.

      With that in mind, he told me that when Jesus said “turn the other cheek”, he did not mean christians should forgive their aggressors, but instead they should beat the crap out of them.

      Yeah. :shakes head:

      • C.L. Honeycutt


        …I’m sorry… I mean…


  • TnkAgn

    Actually, this is a big – and very welcome – deal for the US Air Force Academy. Over the years, the AFA has been well known to be a center for Christian proselytism, along with the mega-church prone community of Colorado Springs, which hosts the academy.

    Baby steps, I suppose, but still, an important development, IMO.

  • WingsThree

    As an alum, this is welcome news. When I was there, the Honor Code did not contain any reference to God – it merely stated that I won’t lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate anyone who does. PERIOD. Colorado Springs was not awash in Chrsitianity either. While this is a step in the right direction, the Honor Code should be revised to take the god reference out – this way there would be no question about it, and complies fully with the Constitution.

    • TheG

      When I was a student there, it was common for “optional” religious exercises to be far less optional than anyone outside may realize.

      I don’t think this is going to change a thing.

    • maddogdelta

      VMI’s honor code (at least when I was there) was very simple.
      A Cadet does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.

      No god needed.

    • Randay

      Megan Kelly is an ignorant idiot. “So help me God” is NOT in the Constitution as part of the President’s oath of office. A President can apparently include it if he wants. In fact it says “swear(or affirm)”, “affirm” being non-religious. The Congressional oath of office is similar. The affirmation applies to many offices and precludes the god reference.

      It is hilarious to see the Jewish creep needing his silly little cap for identification defending Christians when into the 1940′s and 50′s there were laws against Jews buying property in certain neighborhoods or belonging to certain clubs or staying in certain hotels, even in Los Angeles.

  • Sven2547

    US Air Force acknowledges that non-religious people have rights too. Christians outraged.

  • skeptical_inquirer

    That’s good. I remember that even some religious people don’t want to swear by God when it comes to jury duty but go “I so affirm” which is what I think should be the standard.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Certainly the ones who study their religion don’t want to swear by God, as that is what “taking his name in vain” actually is. Why do the great majority of them think it means cursing?

      • WallofSleep

        Because if they went with the actual meaning, that would mean folks like Pat Robertson, and just about any tv preacher or republican politician, are guilty of violating that commandment several times a day, every single day, and we just can’t have that.

  • Kat

    “But why does one person go to change what the majority of Americans believe?

    This was the line that really jumped out at me. Apparently, unless everyone is saying it out loud, no one believes it. Or something. I know I should stop trying to make sense out of this question before my headache gets any worse, but… WTF?

  • baal

    I could only take until Bill Donohue rudely interrupted Dave M. Bill looked like a liar from his body language.

  • JT Rager

    Love how Muscato rarely gets to finish a sentence in the second video. Disgusting.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Yes, Megyn Kelly. You make me think this way.

    • WallofSleep

      That’s flirting with the extinction of humanity.

  • SeekerLancer

    “…he or she will not be able to say ‘So help me God’ and you’re okay with that?”

    What the crap? That’s not what even happened. They can say it all they want. Nobody’s stopping them, nobody’s even trying to stop them.

    Their terrified overreactions to people being allowed minor concessions are always entertaining anyway.

    • Ida Know

      Aren’t the privileged cute when they try to play the “help, help, we’re being oppressed!” card the minute anyone else asks for a piece of the pie?

    • WallofSleep

      Dude, it’s Gretchen Carlson. She’s not on speaking terms with truth or reality at all. Trying to make sense of her ramblings could have disastrous consequences. It’s like crossing the streams; you don’t even want to think about doing it unless you’re trying to kill a gargantuan, marshmallow man.

      • SeekerLancer

        People being allowed to opt out of religious practice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

  • Cat’s Staff

    FAIL in both videos. The important point that needed to be conveyed (especially in the video with Mikey was that people could opt into saying it JUST LIKE THE PRESIDENT DOES when taking the oath of office. That invalidates the argument that the President does it, so it’s okay for others to be required to do it.

  • Sven2547

    Predictably, Patheos blogger and Christian-supremacist Rebecca Hamilton is outraged.

    • JP

      The Christian Persecution Complex and extreme sense of entitlement is strong with this Rebecca.

    • PNW

      I just made a comment on the article. We’ll see if I make it through moderation!

      • Dale

        You made it through moderation! Come on over and join in the discussion. :-)

  • newavocation

    I think this could become even a bigger deal, since more cadets won’t feel the need or feel threaten by not going along. Of course the more we marginalize their Xian God the more they are going to speak out and fight to restore their privledge and keep those tidings coming in.

    • Stev84

      They have plenty of other ways to marginalize non-believers. The only bright side here is that this is at the end of their indoctrination education. So not saying it won’t hurt them. But speaking up against the oppressive religious culture at the military academies earlier is usually career suicide.

      • Alierias

        Yup — had a friend who was a Captain in the AF asked to “resign his commission” because he’s an outspoken atheist; oh they had other “reasons”, he “missed duty” while undergoing chemo…

  • ShoeUnited

    Atheism sucks. They can’t even design a park bench!

    I’ll insult anything and everything if it’s held sacred. Don’t rope us into that crowd.

    I think you’re being facetious, but c’mon, at least aim to be topical.

  • Ron

    “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” ~Some dude named Jesus

  • pagansister

    Good. There is no reason a cadet should ask for help from someone or thing they do no believe in. One can be most honorable without a higher power’s assistance!

  • TheNaturalist
  • toth

    I wish Mikey hadn’t acted like such a condescending asshole to Kelly. We don’t need that.