Congressmen Introduce Military Oath Bill, Chide Weinstein

After USAFA appeared to capitulate to Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaints that “so help me God” violated the US Constitution, two Congressmen have proposed legislation that would require “Congressional approval” before changes can be made to military oaths.  The bill was proposed by Reps Sam Johnson and Pete Olson (R-Tx).  Though the text is not available, the current lengthy title says the purpose of HR 3416 is

to require congressional approval before any change may be made to the oaths required for enlistment in the Armed Forces, appointment to an office in the civil service or uniformed services, or appointment as a cadet or midshipman at a military service academy…

Astute observers will note that has nothing to do with USAFA’s Cadet Honor Oath.  Similarly, the oaths to which that legislation does apply are already enshrined in Federal law (which is written by Congress), which means the military technically already lacks the authority to unilaterally change them.

The legislation could actually make the situation more complicated, as the military might have to backtrack on its policies for the enlistment oaths and once again tell candidates that they are required to say “so help me God” because the law, as written, does not allow them to ‘opt out’ (though, as noted here, an Air Force regulation does, as does Army guidance).  The Air Force is currently generating a “legal opinion” on this subject, an opinion which could be overcome by events should the bill eventually become law.

Rep Johnson, who was a 7-year POW in Vietnam with Robbie Risner, Bud Day, and John McCain, said

“I can tell you from experience, there are no atheists in foxholes,” Johnson said in a statement. “Many people don’t know this but when you survive a near-death experience you realize that the only thing you had to hold on to was your faith in God…”

“It’s not only my experience, but that of my fellow POWs, veterans, and those currently in harm’s way that make ‘so help me God’ vital to the oath,” Johnson said.  “I urge my colleagues to join this effort to protect the legacy of freedom of religion.”

Johnson referred to the Hanoi Hilton “church riot” in his statement, and Olson chided the Air Force for granting credence to critic Michael Weinstein [emphasis added]:

It was disheartening to see the Air Force Academy succumb to anti-religious zealotry from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)…

What troubles me even more is that the original complaint was not made by a cadet, but a local newspaper that brought the oath to the attention of an organization hostile to freedom of faith.

These points were made in the original discussion on this site.