Air Force Oath: “So Help Me God” Optional Again
Update: The Air Force declined to release the legal opinion behind the decision to alter the AFI last year requiring “so help me God” to remain in the oath. The reason: attorney-client privilege.
The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now. Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the Air Force takes religious freedom seriously:
“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen’s rights are protected.”
The Air Force Academy noted this did not affect their Cadet Honor Oath, which was the subject of controversy last year:
This has no impact on the Cadet Honor Oath taken by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy as the words “so help me God” were already optional.
Interestingly, however, USAFA then indicated the oath had changed [emphasis added]:
In its original form, the oath read “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.”
Now, the Academy quotes the Cadet Honor Oath and omits “so help me God” from the text altogether:
The oath consists of a statement of the Honor Code, followed by a resolution for cadets to live honorably and reads: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably.”
In other words, USAFA is saying “so help me God” is no longer part of the oath at all. That’s very different from making “so help me God” an optional part of the oath.