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Published On: Mon, Sep 8th, 2014

Air Force rejects reenlistment for atheist airmen for refusing ‘so help me God’ oath

An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was denied reenlistment last month for refusing to take an oath containing “so help me God,” the American Humanist Association said as the group investigates the incident, possibly seeking legal action.

Global Dispatch 200x119In a Sept. 2 letter to the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech, Monica Miller, an attorney with the AHA’s Apignani Humanist Legal Center, said the airman should be allowed to reenlist without having to swear to a deity, and instead given a secular oath. Miller said the AHA is prepared to sue if the airman is not allowed to reenlist.

“Because the law in this area is well established, those commanders may be sued in their individual capacities and be personally liable for damages,” Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, wrote in the letter.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller added.

Miller said during an interview with The Daily Beast  in their Sept. 8 article that her client’s situation is not unprecedented. About a year ago, the Air Force denied reenlistment to a service member for similar reasons, Miller said, but quickly reversed course and allowed the airman to take a secular oath.

Creech officials referred inquiries to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Officials at Nellis referred questions to Air Force public affairs officers at the Pentagon, who had not confirmed the incident at the end of last week.

Air Force Instruction 36-2606 spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, which all airmen must take when they enlist or reenlist and ends with “so help me God.” The old version of that AFI included an exception: “Note: Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.”

That language was dropped in an Oct. 30, 2013, update to the AFI. The relevant section of that AFI now only lists the active-duty oath of enlistment, without giving airmen any option to choose not to swear an oath to a deity.

“Reciting ‘So help me God’ in the reenlistment and commissioning oaths is a statutory requirement under Title 10 USC 502,” Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said Thursday. AFI 36-2606 “is consistent with the language mandated in 10 USC 502. Paragraph 5.6 [and] was changed in October 2013 to reflect the aforementioned statutory requirement and airmen are no longer authorized to omit the words ‘So help me God.’ ”

The Air Force said it cannot change its AFI to make “so help me God” optional unless Congress changes the statute mandating it.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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