Atheist Airman Denied Re-Enlistment: Reportedly Refused To Recite ‘So Help Me God’ Part of Oath

An airman with the Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada has reportedly been denied re-enlistment after he refused to take an oath that contained the clause, “so help me God.”

On Monday, August 25, the American Humanist Association was alerted of the airman’s denial. Then on Thursday, September 4, Monica Miller, an attorney with the Apignani Humanist Legal Center of the AHA, wrote a letter addressing the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech in regards to the airman’s treatment.

According to the Huffington Post, the unnamed airman was reportedly “told by his superiors that he must swear to God or leave the Air Force.” The airman was also told he would not be given any alternative options that would allow him to bypass the oath. The signing of the religious oath section of the contract is mandatory. He was also required to recite an oath concluding with “so help me God.” Since he refused to complete both requirements, he was asked to leave the Air Force.

However, the AHA disagrees with the Air Force’s decision, deeming it “unconstitutional and unacceptable.” The letter also cited why the airman should be allowed to re-enlist, reports The Air Force Times. Miller insisted that the airman be given a secular oath, which would exclude the religious clause in the initial oath.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller said. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or re-enlistment contracts.”

Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a board member of the AHA, also weighed in with his perspective of the airman’s ordeal. He pointed out one interesting reason why the airman should have be considered for re-enlistment – his honesty.

“This airman shows integrity, commitment to the nation, and respect for religion in standing firm for a secular oath that reflects his true values and intentions,” said Torpy

However, the Air Force stated that the AFI cannot be changed unless Congress steps in and authorizes a change to the statute mandating the oath. On Thursday, September 4, Air Force spokeswoman, Rose Richeson, responded to the letter reiterating the statutory requirements.

“Reciting ‘So help me God’ in the reenlistment and commissioning oaths is a statutory requirement under Title 10 USC 502,” Richeson explained. “AFI 36-2606 “is consistent with the language mandated in 10 USC 502. Paragraph 5.6 [and] was changed in October 2013 to reflect the aforementioned statutory requirement and airmen are no longer authorized to omit the words ‘So help me God.'”

Do you think Congress should change the statute in order for airman to opt out of the clause?

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