Some cadets at the US Air Force Academy have complained of unwanted religious proselytizing. Now, the academy has made 'so help me God' an optional phrase in the cadets' honor oath.
In another test of the constitutional separation of church and state, “God” is now an optional entity in the honor oath sworn to by cadets at the US Air Force Academy.
It’s the latest in a series of episodes involving US service personnel, some of whom have felt pressured to exhibit a religiosity they do not hold too – including overt proselytizing by some chaplains and other senior officers.
When objections were raised to the “so help me God” phrase in the Air Force Academy’s honor oath, academy officials quickly relented.
“Here at the Academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference – or not,” Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said in a statement. "So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the Honor Oath with 'So help me God.'"
The full oath, which is a statement of the cadets’ “Honor Code,” 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, so help me God."
The Honor Code, "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does," was formally adopted by the Academy's first graduating class of 1959, according to public affairs officer Maj. Brus E. Vidal. It is the minimum standard of conduct which cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets.
In 1984, following widespread allegations of cheating in a physics class, the Cadet Wing voted to add an oath for all cadets to take. It is administered to fourth class cadets (freshmen) when they are formally accepted into the Wing at the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training, says Maj. Vidal on the academy’s website.