Airmen taking their enlistment or officer appointment oaths can omit the words “so aid me God” if they pick out, Air Force officials announced Wednesday.
The policy transform comes after an atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada struck out the words on his Division 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 issues with regards to religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stated in a statement. “We are making the proper 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 lawyer Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. But his views changed, and he crossed out the words “so assistance me God” when he filled out reenlistment paperwork recently.
“It was crucial from the standpoint of honesty,” Miller mentioned of her client, who she said desires to stay anonymous for worry of retaliation. “He can’t take an oath for a God he does not believe in.”
Military officials stated the airman’s unit was unable to course of action the documents because of the policy against omissions. Miller mentioned he was told by his commanders Aug. 25 that he will have to swear to God or leave the service.
The humanist group sent letters to the Air Force threatening to sue if the airman couldn’t re-enlist without having saying “so assist me God” by Sept. 19.
He was informed of the policy adjust Wednesday, Miller stated, and is “feeling that his rights have definitely been vindicated.”
The choice was applauded by Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nevada, whose congressional district includes Creech Air Force Base.
“We celebrate the diverse beliefs and views that members of the Air Force hold,” he said in a statement. “Our freedoms are only definitely important when we respect them in practice.”
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