Effective immediately, the United States Air Force will not require enlisted members and officers to say “So help me God” in appointment oaths.
The military branch is making the policy change after an airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was unable to reenlist when he omitted the phrase in his paperwork and verbal oath, violating the Air Force rule against omissions. The airman’s lawyer threatened to sue, arguing that he should not be forced to swear an oath to God to be able to reenlist.
“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”
The ultimate decision was made by the Department of Defense General Counsel, who ruled that the phrase should be optional if it was against the members’ personal beliefs. The Air Force previously had allowed airmen to use alternate language but the option was removed last October based on the legal interpretation of the sections of U.S. Code which contain the oaths of office.
According to the Associated Press, all the other military services have allowed members to omit the phrase or use alternate language for years.