As reported at the Religion Clause, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has permitted the optional inclusion of “So Help Me God” in the oath of naturalization. Referring to the test used by the Supreme Court regarding the Bladensburg Peace Cross, the Court said:
We follow the Supreme Court’s most recent framework and apply American Legion’s presumption of constitutionality to the phrase “so help me God” in the naturalization oath because we consider the inclusion of similar words to be a ceremonial, longstanding practice as an optional means of completing an oath. And because the record does not demonstrate a discriminatory intent in maintaining those words in the oath or “deliberate disrespect” by the inclusion of the words, Perrier-Bilbo cannot overcome the presumption.
That amount of legal defense almost seems ridiculous, given that the plaintiff was complaining about an optional phrase. She wasn’t trying to avoid saying something she didn’t want to; she wanted to prevent others the option of saying it. She’d already been given more than one option to omit the phrase: Read more
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Gen John “Jay” Raymond as the first Chief of Staff of the Space Force. As covered at SpaceNews, the event was notable because the United States has never had a Space Force before; in fact, the US hasn’t had a major Service added to the force since the Air Force became an independent Service in 1947. It was a historic event.
NPR, though, noted the other highlight of the event in a parenthetical aside [emphasis added]:
With one hand placed on a Bible whose “official” blessing on Sunday sparked sharp criticism, Raymond was sworn in by Vice President Pence at the vice president’s ceremonial office.
Clearly, the government was moved by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s complaint about the Bible yesterday — probably because it was “full-throated” — and completely ignored him.
Contrary to Weinstein’s all-caps claim that military officers are “NOT ever ‘sworn-in’ to their positions”, the narrator of the ceremony noted the oath was required under Article VI of the Constitution (as an “executive officer” of the United States) and is prescribed in Title V of the US Code: Read more
The National Cathedral published a photograph of the “blessing of a Bible” to be used for swearing-in within the new Space Force. The ceremony was featured in the Washington Post. Pictured were Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Carl Wright of the Episcopal Church, and US Air Force Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (MajGen) Steven Schaick:
The gift they gave Chaplain Schaick was a King James Bible donated by The Museum of the Bible, which is in Washington, D.C., a few miles from the National Cathedral.
“Accept this Bible which we dedicate here today for the United States Space Force,” intones the Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of the National Cathedral, “that all may so diligently search your holy word and find in it the wisdom that leads to peace and salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.”
This was all too much for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who issued a “full-throated” response: Read more
Several critics — primarily on the liberal-leaning, anti-religious freedom side — have laid into US Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Tx) for his “Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015” — and it is abundantly clear that none of them actually read the proposed bill.
Most of the critics portrayed the act as some version of requiring enlisting military members to “pledge to God” during their military oaths — something that recalls issues with the US Air Force and Air Force Academy in 2013. One employee of the Air Force Academy summed up much of the criticism when he tweeted to the Congressman (thick with irony):
What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” did you miss, sir?
You are in Congress. You are sponsoring a bill to establish Christianity as a state religion. Have you READ the Constitution?
— Phoenix Blue (@Phoenix_Blue) March 23, 2015
Similarly, an astonishingly ignorant Michael “Mikey” Weinstein claimed Read more
When the Air Force reversed its position and allowed enlistees to omit “so help me God” from their oath of enlistment, Pat Robertson had this response:
There’s a left-wing radical named Mickey Weinstein who has got a group about people against religion or whatever he calls it, and he has just terrorized the armed forces. You think you’re supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to defend us, and you got one little Jewish radical who is scaring the pants off of you…
It’s just crazy. What is wrong with Read more
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.
After seeking guidance from the Department of Defense, the Air Force immediately implemented a policy change making the oath “so help me God” optional during the oaths of office and enlistment.
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 Read more
Update: Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association, wrote an article saying “The U.S. Constitution makes it clear: American atheists are not and should not be barred from serving their country through military service.”
Facing scrutiny for its letter-of-the-law requirement that Airmen enlist with “So help me God,” the Air Force has asked the DoD General Counsel to provide an official legal opinion:
The Air Force said Tuesday it was awaiting a legal opinion from the Defense Department’s top lawyer on whether an enlisted airman who’s an atheist can opt out of the phrase “so help me God” in his re-enlistment oath…
“The opinion that we’re seeking will help inform future decisions and the latitude that can be taken with the oath,” Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said Tuesday. “But the Air Force has to comply with law.”
From an objective position, Read more
The American Humanist Association — the same group vying for an atheist chaplain — has threatened to sue the Air Force because the military enlistment oath ends in “So help me God,” and an Airman at Creech AFB lined out part of the oath on his enlistment form:
According to the AHA, the unnamed airman was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept his contract because he had crossed out the phrase “so help me God.”…
That is unconstitutional and unacceptable, the AHA said.
“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 reenlistment contracts.”
They’re correct. The problem with the AHA’s position is they demonstrated an amazing lack of comprehension of the law — and basic public relations skills.
After three pages of pontificating in their demand letter, the AHA Read more