I‘ve been privately asked a few times how to deal with re-enlistment oaths, and that tricky “so help me god.”
This is how.
I had a run-in with an E9 who worked at Reserve Forces Command for my last reenlistment.
MY command was very understanding of atheism and accepted my wishes to change “So Help Me God” to “On My Honor” not only for the spoken oath, but also when I crossed out “so help me god” on the form and changed it to what I wanted.
A couple of weeks after submission it made it all the way up to Commander, Navy Reserve Force Command (CNRFC) but one of the senior enlisted personnel managers got a hold of it and shot it back to my Chief. I was informed that an E9 denied my paperwork because (according to him) you are not allowed to change CNRFC forms in any way and that I also HAD too say the oath as intended. He then asked me if I wanted to fight it or just do as CNRFC had said.
Well, I did submit a new package, but it was not reenlistment paperwork. It was a memo with attachments including verse from the constitution “no religious test for public office”, copies of several Federal court cases dealing with scenarios like mine and an accommodation clause for Navy paperwork form the Navy MILPERSMAN. My reply was simply:
The guidance that stipulates no one can change CNRFC Navy forms except CNRFC does not trump the military’s obligation to FAIRLY accommodate all religious beliefs. The reenlistment form I am REQUIRED too sign and return to continue my affiliation with the US military is biased towards monotheistic religions and does not meet the requirement to fair treatment. I refuse to sign a document giving any oath to ANYONE’S god and forcing me to do so too retain my employment will result in a legal battle.
As far as saying the Oath as directed? I refer you to the attached court cases.
No reply was ever given, but 2 weeks later my reenlistment paperwork showed up in my Online Service Record complete with the Navy enlistment form with “so help me god” crossed out. “Pics or it didn’t happen” attached.
I would like to add that if not for you, Justin, I would have NEVER had the gull to stand up too my superiors like this. These people see us as “no big deal” or tell us to “just shut up and go along with dance”. You and your story are not only an inspiration, but a solid stepping stone to the attitudes and drive we need to develop as people and a community to reach our fair and rightful place as Military Atheists not second class citizens.
God Bless wait, I mean Rock On!
Joseph, US Navy
Most of us know that we don’t have to say “so help me god”. But did you know you can also cross it out on your official contract before you sign it, too? Just cross it out, make changes as needed, and sign your initials by the change. This is a legal document, and that’s simply how it works. I’ve been meaning to publicly post this advice for some time.
To my atheist brothers and sisters in the military, every re-enlistment we take is an opportunity to mirror this epic win. If you are met with opposition, I’ve got your back – as do a plethora of lawyers. You will win this argument.