Weinstein’s Imbalanced View of So Help Me God
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein penned half of a pro/con debate for the local Colorado Springs Gazette regarding the presence of “so help me God” in the USAFA Cadet Honor Oath. Weinstein boils his argument down to this:
Removing those words from the published oath does nothing to change [cadets’ First Amendment] right [sic].
In balance, however, if the removal of those words affects not the First Amendment rights of believers, why would the presence of those words affect the rights of others? Weinstein fails to justify his call for a change.
In one respect, Weinstein’s premise seems to be correct: No religious faith requires one to take governmental oaths by saying “so help me God.” In that regard, removing it would not in itself infringe on religious liberty.
The same was true for the poster at the Prep School.
The same was true for the Chaplain’s article in Alaska.
The same was true for “Deo” on the RCO’s patch.
No religious belief mandates a particular position on any of those issues — and no government policy does, either. The military has chosen its responses at its discretion.
Each time the government has taken a position — even if it didn’t need to take one at all. It has frequently been accused of taking a position contrary to religious liberty on these issues, not merely because of the individual issue, but because of the apparent culture a pattern of such decisions creates. Repeated actions by the military seeming to target religious faith can generate the perception that the military is hostile to faith — a perception declared by members of Congress. The single counter-example was the Air Force’s decision to restore the pulled Chaplain’s article — something that occurred only after substantial push back from religious liberty groups.
Weinstein’s position that removing “so help me God” “takes nothing away” from religious troops is, in isolation, correct.
In the greater context, though, of the environment of religious freedom in the US military, he’s not only wrong, but constitutionally wrong. Weinstein isn’t interested in religious freedom in the military, however. His goal is more visceral, and it involves doing anything he can to have the government target Christians he doesn’t feel are the “right kind” of Christians.
Interestingly, “so help me God” isn’t a Christian phrase. But guess who are the most vocal ones trying to protect military religious liberty from Weinstein’s goals of purging it…?
The opposing article can be read here.