Air Force Academy Cadet Oath
More than 1,300 basic cadets salute June 26, 2009 during their first reveille formation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo credit: Mike Kaplan (Public Domain)

(Washington, DC) The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is receiving calls from concerned parents of Air Force Academy cadets about the Academy’s removal of the phrase “So help me God” from the Cadet Oath, the Officer Oath, and the Enlisted Oath in the Academy Contrails Cadet Handbook.

“The removal of this phrase is a disservice to the countless men and women who wish to include it as a solemn reminder that they are pledging their fidelity to God and their country,” said Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “This phrase is a deeply rooted American tradition which George Washington began as the first president of the United States, and many who take an oath of service to our country still state it.”

Crews explained that the Chaplain Alliance is calling on Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson and the Air Force to explain why it removed the phrase from many of its oaths and also explain why it removed a poster portraying the words of the Academy Honor Oath, which ended with the same phrase.

“We respectfully request that Lt. Gen. Johnson bring the Air Force Academy oaths into line with the law. While we respect the right of any cadet to not say ‘So help me God,’ the law requires that the words remain part of the oath. Cadets who come from faith backgrounds should be supported in solemnizing their oath with the words that generations of officers before them have used.”

“We commend Congressman Jim Birdenstine and his many colleagues in the House for their leadership in investigating this issue,” Crews added regarding a Nov. 18 letter to Johnson. “We thank them for urging the Academy to ensure its oaths reflect the original statutory language in full and to support those cadets who wish to include “So help me God” in their administration of the oath.”

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is an organization of chaplain endorsers, the faith groups that provide chaplains for the U.S. military and other agencies needing chaplains. The endorsers in the Chaplain Alliance speak for more than 2600 chaplains serving the armed forces.

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  1. Why would we want a non-Christian cadet to swear an oath to a God they don’t believe in? Make them swear by something they believe in. Also, don’t Christians believed swearing an oath falsely is a sin. Why would we compel someone to sin?

    Put simply, it is a common sense religious liberty protection for non-theist cadets.

    Also, “So help me God” is a recent 1984 addition to the honor code (not original).

    Finally, “so help me God” was not removed. It’s still tradition, but it’s now optional.

    1. Just because someone is not a Christian doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in God. Just ask a Jew or Muslim.

      Otherwise, I agree with you.

      The oath was adopted by the academy’s first class in 1959 without the final phrase, which was added in 1984 following a cheating scandal. Honor oaths at other U.S. military academies do not include the word “God.”

      If would be nice to see a reference to the “law [that] requires that the words remain part of the oath.”

      1. “Just because someone is not a Christian doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in God. Just ask a Jew or Muslim.”

        He could be an atheist.

      2. Maybe that triple negative caused some confusion. I hope I wrote it correctly to mean what I wanted to mean. 🙂

  2. It’s pretty simple. The cadets can still say it themselves if it is important to their “faith tradition”. Let those with strong feelings stand up and be counted.

  3. They made the “so help me God” optional. They can say it if they want. It was recently added (in 1984).

    BTW, “Under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950’s.

    1. We are talking about the law. If the Air Force wants to get the law changed, they can. We, as a country, started putting God into law with the founding, and added His name from time to time, as needed.

      1. Can you cite the law that requires this, and why doesn’t the law apply to the other service academies?

      2. I don’t think it is legal to change any oath or pledge just because one person or a small group decides to do so ….We’ve had a huge legal fight over “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance. This seems like a similar situation. BTW, the fight goes back to the beginning. Thomas Paine was an atheist and got into it, with our founding fathers, about having any religion at all in this country.
        He wrote a book “The Age of Reason,” dubbed “The Atheist’s Bible,” copies of which are available today. He lost the fight with the founders, but on every continent today, atheists are still in a battle with Bible believing Christians, and it can get real ugly. The French Revolution had a lot to do with getting rid of Christians. We didn’t want that. Paine did.

      3. The Pledge of Allegiance was officially adopted into law by Congress in 1942. The phrase “under God” was officially added into law 1954. The oath was never a law.

        “He lost the fight with the founders.” I am not sure what fight he lost here. The United States has never been a Christian Nation. You can say it currently is a nation with a majority of Christians, but the Founding Fathers via the 1st Amendment were very specific to not only prohibit the government from forcing a certain religion on it’s people but also to keep the people from forcing their religious views onto others.

      4. I think you are misinterpreting the First Amendment. We have records of how people lived and what they said and did in public, and it was Christian. Thomas Paine claimed to be a deist, but the other deists in America disagreed with him. Paine died in disgrace, and was unwanted in three countries England, France, and America. We have many codes about a variety of subjects, which are followed as law. If you are building a house, it would be inadvisable not to follow the code, and illegal. Most public oaths would be in a code catagory. How is following a custom of this country forcing you to believe a certain religious view? After all, a cadet does not have to say so help me God, does he? He can just let the others do it.

      5. As I said, there were a majority of Christians but no where do they mention a Christian religion in the Constitution, i.e we are not a Christian Nation.

        If you feel I am misinterpreting the First Amendment, perhaps you can explain why you think so. To be a true Deist all one has to do is believe in a creator – nothing more, which was what most people believed at the time. This was a time before Darwin so there weren’t many alternate views.

        The body of people who added “so help me God” in 1984 decided to make it optional today. If they didn’t have the authority to make it optional now, then they must not have had the authority to add it in 1984 either.

      6. Have you read this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is after “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Do you think the people who wrote these two ideas would have a problem with something written in 1984 because it had to do with God? Why are the Christian chaplains the only ones worried about the push to get references to God out of the military, if it has nothing to do with Christianity? Now, I have answered your question regarding the First Amendment, in a roundabout way. George Washington kept a journal regarding the French and Indian War, which was a religious war, and which spread to Europe and became the Seven Years War. Washington was an Episcopalian, most of the soldiers in the Rev War were Calvinists, and both of these religious groups had fought off some Catholics and atheists, like in the French and Indian War, at some point in time. You have to read the letters and books written by them and their enemies back then. The men who founded our country were better read, more traveled, and knew more about world history than you or me But, you need to read things by them, and about them in order to know that. I don’t think it is in the best interests of deists or atheists to take God out of the public square. That is, if you have other beliefs in line with Christians. Now, the current atheists working to remove God from everything, do not have much in common with Christains, and they especially dislike Christian morals and the laws we have because of them.

      7. Nothing you put here contradicts what I wrote. Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention Christianity. Do you really think this was just an over-sight? It wasn’t. They intentionally made no references to any specific religion. They did make sure to address religion in the First Amendment.

        One of the reasons Europeans came to America was to get away from a government that dictated what religion you would have to follow.

        I am curious which laws were inspired by Christian morals. Do not murder, steal, bear false witness, etc were around long before Christianity or even Judaism. The Code of Hammurabi, the oldest book in existence, is a non-religious book that covers all these laws and many more.

      8. Did you miss the part above where I said “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God?” Do you know where that came from? Who said that it mentioned Christianity in the Constitution? You don’t seem to be able to get my point. And, you are dancing around yours…You are arguing to be arguing. If you have a point to make about the subject matter, please make it. We have our government and the governments around us today, with different laws. Which of those countries have better oaths for their cadets? Who’s got your back? Who’s side are you on? And yes, I’ve heard of the Code of Hammerabi, as well as the thousand years of English law.

      9. Let me try to summarize my points and you can tell me if you agree or disagree. Everything I have written were to support these points.

        Point 1: You wrote “We, as a country, started putting God into law with the founding, and added His name from time to time, as needed.”

        I disagreed with your statement. The Founding Fathers (in this case Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin) took a very Deistic stand when writing the Constitution by intentionally choosing Creator over God.

        Point 2: You wrote “I don’t think it is legal to change any oath or pledge just because one person or a small group decides to do so…”

        I pointed out that the phrase “so help me God” was not added until 1984 and that since they had the authority to add it then (without Congressional approval) then it would seem they should have the authority to make it optional today.

        Point 3: You wrote “We’ve had a huge legal fight over “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance. This seems like a similar situation. BTW, the fight goes back to the beginning. Thomas Paine was an atheist and got into it, with our founding fathers, about having any religion at all in this country. He wrote a book “The Age of Reason,” dubbed “The Atheist’s Bible,” copies of which are available today. He lost the fight with the founders, ….”

        I pointed out that the words “under God” were added in 1954, not by the Founding Fathers. I rejected / questioned what you meant by “lost the fight”. We are not a Christian Nation. See Point 1.

      10. Dear Bruce, We have ideals in this country, including religious ideals, and not all of them were put in or left out of the Constitution. I don’t believe property rights are mentioned in the Constitution, and yet Constitutionalists are not trying to ban them. The founders felt, wrongly it seems in today’s world, that there are self-evident truths. Those would be certain morals and precepts found in the Bible, and hopefully elsewhere. For example, capitalism is found throughout the Bible.
        The first six presidents of the U.S. were Episcopalians or Unitarians. Unitarianism was banned in colonial America. They got real busy after the revolution, not that they weren’t before, and have always been more of a political group, than a religious one. However, the Unitarians of that time, had not embraced socialistic ideals, like the Uni’s of today.
        Unitarians embraced Marxism in the late 1800s.
        You can be a Unitarian today and believe anything, and I mean anything, except real Christianity. So, yes, we have a secular government and PBS’ and NPR’s “religion,” is Unitarianism. V.I. Lenin wrote a book in 1917/18, “State and the Revolution,” and in it he wrote how to take over the U.S., knowing full well people in this country were already doing what he said.
        I am positive the American Rev soldiers that I have researched, would not like what they see today. Plus, I don’t like it. When I hear the nasty music played even in the grocery stores in my area, or watch TV, and not just cable, or see phone numbers to report crimes at rest stops, or see the criminals themselves at the rest stops, I am truly disgusted with what atheists have done to this country. If you want to excuse it by saying this or that is not in the Constitution, join the crowd. Taking God out of oaths is a part of the ickiness of the country today

      11. “Bigot: One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”

        “I am truly disgusted with what atheists have done to this country.”
        Quite a statement to just throw out there. Got any proof?

      12. You do seem to fit the definition of a bigot. Or, you may just have a problem with using good judgment. Judgment is a huge part of reading comprehension.
        Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you are enjoying it with your family.

      13. Should Christians even be swearing oaths? James 5:12 says “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” (NIV)

      14. They changed it before (to add “So help me God”), so I’m sure there was a proper procedure followed. However, you specifically said there was a law about this, and I asked you to cite said law, which you didn’t.

      15. I’m not your master. I’m just some guy from Baltimore, currently in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, posting on an Iowa blog.

      16. Paine’s “The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology” was a two-part pamphlet. I can find no reference to it ever being called “The Atheist’s Bible”. Could you cite your sources as I would find such information quite interesting.

      17. Must I do all of your thinking for you? Do a little more than a quick web search, if you are really interested. Check out you local library, It is out there, and actually should be on the web someplace, as well.

      18. If you are going to ask questions about subjects which only take a slight bit of effort to find the answers to, you should be prepared to look them up.

      19. Well, the fact is in my copy of the World Book Encyclopedia, among other places. That help you out?

  4. I recently watched Constantine’s Sword on Netflix. It’s a documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism in the Air Force Academy – due largely to the influence of Ted Haggard’s nearby Megachurch. This is the same Ted Haggard who was one of George W’s spiritual advisors while GW was president and also the same Ted Haggard who stepped down when accused of illegal drug use and for paying a male prostitute over several years.

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