VICTORY: MAAF-AHA partnership ends mandatory Air Force religious oath
Air Force officials have relented, after pressure from everyone, military and civilian, atheist and theist, and reinstated the secular affirmation option.
Thanks to the American Humanist Association in particular and also to support from the Center For Inquiry, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Department of Defense who directed the Air Force to change. And let it not be said that I don’t give thanks where it’s deserved. Even ultra-evangelical disagraced chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt and the extremist American Family Association General Counsel Patrick Vaughn even came out in support of a secular affirmation. The Air Force should have learned when MAAF resolved a similar issue with an officer last year.
But remember that this victory only gets us back to the status quo. The religious oath is still the default option. We still have to ‘out’ ourselves to choose the secular affirmation. We won’t be tossed out for not believing in capital-G God, but we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality.
MAAF Press Release follows
Mandatory God reference removed from U.S. Air Force oath
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers relieved at removal of mandated religion
For Immediate Release
Jason Torpy, 202-656-6223, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2014)
The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF) can now tell its members, deployed with the U.S. Air Force around the world, that they need not choose between their beliefs and their service to the nation. After pressure from MAAF in conjunction with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association, officials at the Pentagon have returned to the status quo. Just as in political and judicial oaths and in other branches, the phrase “So Help Me God” is no longer required to enlist or re-enlist in the U.S. Air Force.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed our client has a First Amendment right to omit the reference to a supreme being in his reenlistment oath,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
A Tech Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force intended to re-enlisted at Creech Air Force Base this November. However, he contacted MAAF when, on August 25th, he was told that he would have to swear to God or leave the military. MAAF conferred with attorneys at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center and worked with the Airman to demand that Air Force officials allow for a secular affirmation in place of a religious oath, verbally and on official forms.
Air Force officials repeatedly asserted that a secular affirmation was not authorized and that the religious oath was mandatory. They referred to the wording of Title 10 Section 502 as their justification. They seemed to ignore prior Air Force policy to allow for a secular affirmation, other branches of service which allow for a secular affirmation, and the Constitution requirement in Article VI “no religious test shall ever be required” for public office. Only after intervention from Department of Defense officials did the Air Force relent. See Pentagon press release here.
“After fighting for our rights, nontheists now again have the status quo in the Air Force, a secular affirmation consistent with other branches of service and our Constitution. Now we return to seeking other equal rights such as identification on official records, chaplain support, and spiritual fitness training that helps humanists and other nontheists,” said Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and board member of the American Humanist Association.
The American Humanist Association has also issued a statement on this matter.
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, www.militaryatheists.org, supports humanists and other nontheists serving around the world in our nation’s armed forces.
Special thanks to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center and the American Humanist Association for their legal expertise.