September 19, 2014
LAS VEGAS (AP) — U.S. airmen taking their enlistment or officer appointment oaths can omit the words “so help me God” if they choose, Air Force officials announced Wednesday.
The policy change comes after an atheist airman in Nevada struck out the words on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork and ran afoul of a policy that prohibits omissions. The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred. All of the other military services have allowed the alternate language for years.
“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen’s rights are protected.”
The case involved a technical sergeant who initially enlisted in 2003, before he was an atheist, according to attorney Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. But his views changed, and he crossed out the words “so help me God” when he filled out reenlistment paperwork recently.