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Academy May Drop 'So Help Me God' from Oath

12:17 PM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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By Stephen Losey, Air Force Times

The Air Force Academy is considering dropping or changing its honor oath because it has the phrase "so help me God."

The review is in response to a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state in the military.

Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal said the Honor Review Committee met Oct. 22 to discuss the oath's wording, but made no decision on whether or how to alter the 28 words. Vidal said the academy will "develop a way ahead that is respectful to all perspectives."

"They considered a range of options and some of those options will be presented to academy leaders and, ultimately, the academy Superintendent [Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson] for a decision," Vidal said. "We value an inclusive environment that promotes dignity and respect for all."

The academy's honor oath currently reads: "We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God."

Among the options the committee discussed were making no change to the oath, making the "so help me God" portion optional, or striking the entire oath.

The Colorado Springs Independent on Oct. 21 posted a picture of a poster at the academy, which had the oath, including the concluding "so help me God" phrase. It received the photo, along with several others, from the academy last week when it asked for pictures of the academy preparatory school. The Independent said it forwarded the photo to MRFF President Mikey Weinstein, who complained to the academy's vice superintendent on Oct. 18 about it.

Weinstein said Johnson soon wrote back to him and said the honor oath has had this wording since about 1984, and that the poster with the oath has been taken down. Vidal confirmed the content of Johnson's email.

The MRFF has been a vocal critic of the academy over the last decade for allowing evangelical Christian airmen to proselytize their faith to cadets. The academy is trying to address that, and recently created a religious tolerance program.

For example, under this program, first-year cadets are taught strategies for handling someone who is attempting to exert unwanted religious influence, and seniors who are about to be commissioned as officers are taught how to promote religious tolerance as commanders.

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