Congressman Bridenstine Fights to Protect Religious Liberty at the Air Force Academy
The phrase “so help me God” was included in the military oath of service in 1776 and is a deeply-rooted American tradition. Now the Air Force Academy has removed the phrase “so help me God” from oaths in the Cadet Handbook.
Congressman Jim Bridenstine spearheaded a letter, signed by 27 other Members of Congress, to the head of the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA). The letter to USAFA’s Superintendent, Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson, expresses disappointment regarding the academy’s recent decision to remove a poster bearing the oath with the phrase “so help me God” and asks for an explanation of why the Contrails Cadet Handbook omits the phrase from the oaths.
Bridenstine said, “This is yet another example of the Obama Administration abolishing all references to God from the public sphere. As the Supreme Court has ruled, the phrase ‘so help me God’ does not establish a national religion. It is troubling to see the U.S. Air Force Academy being used as a political tool to institutionalize a culture of Godlessness.”
George Washington included the phrase “so help me God” at his inauguration as the first President of the United States. Members of our military may choose to include this phrase as a solemnization of their sworn duty to defend and protect our nation, though it is not required for them to serve. Courts consistently have upheld the constitutionality of similar acknowledgements of the Divine, such as “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as of our national motto, “In God we Trust.”
The Cadet’s Oath of Allegiance, as enumerated in the Code of Federal Regulations, ends with “so help me God.” (32 CFR § 901.26). The phrase is included in the oath of office taken by all elected or appointed officials, including Members of Congress. (5 U.S.C. § 3331)
Congressman Bridenstine continued, “As a Navy pilot with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know firsthand the importance of faith to many of our service members. When the services are hostile to faith, they are hostile to their members. The Military Religious Freedom Coalition continues to identify instances whereby our men and women in uniform are forced to conceal or deny their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Sheryl Kaufman, Communications Director
Email Address: Sheryl.Kaufman@mail.house.gov
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