Freedom of religion is one of the mainstays of our Constitutional rights. That includes not being forced to swear to a higher power if you don’t want to. Specifically, the Constitution says that a religious oath cannot be a requirement for holding office or a public trust.
Even though it is talking about legislative office, the broader application of Article VI, paragraph 3, which reads, “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
As it should be.
The airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is being allowed to reenlist without swearing to God to do so. He can affirm to uphold the Constitution, obey lawful orders and the rest without being forced to violate his religious beliefs, or lack thereof.
The creators of this country may have all been Christians, but they were determined, with a great deal of forethought, to ensure that this country would not descend into theocracy. Freedom of Religion is guaranteed. Because it is, we can look at countries that base their government and laws on a state religion and be thankful we don’t live there.
The Air Force instructions that used to cover reenlistments had spelled out that Servicemembers could omit “so help me God” from their oath, but it was changed in October 2013. The Air Force said that the instructions were updated to fulfill statutory requirements and could not be changed unless Congress changes the law mandating it. Within a week, however, the requirements were changed.
“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” stated Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, in the statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”
The decision to change the oath in 2013 was a mistake, but the real question is, “Why was it made?” The Air Force has not released the information on why the change in the instructions was made in the first place.
The decision to change the oath was both unconstitutional and short-sighted. Government institutions and groups have to follow the law, but they need to make sure that the law is for the overall good. Forcing a serviceman to swear an oath to a higher being, no matter whose god it is, is a violation of our Constitutional rights.
The airman was right to refuse; the Air Force was wrong to require it and, hopefully, with the change in instructions, they can get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the policies of this website or organization.