Sam Johnson Talks Change but Legislates Status Quo
A few days ago, Representative Sam Johnson, R-TX, representing Plano, North of Dallas, has chosen to take up the ongoing holy war to evangelize the US military. He recently stood on the floor of the Congress ranting about atheists and persecuted Christians because someone wanted to defend the Constitution without having to swear to his God. He introduced legislation allegedly to enforce a religious oath but that in reality only establishes a bit of bureaucracy with no real effect.
He was trying to cash in on a November 2013 Military Religious Freedom Foundation media firestorm
ignited over allegations that US Air Force Academy Oath required a religious “So Help Me God” at the end. Representative Johnson seems to want to reignite that fire by enforcing religious oaths
on all military personnel.
““oath” includes affirmation, and “sworn” includes affirmed;” — US Code Title 1 Section 1. No one changed the oath – it was always secular.
Ethically and in terms of American values, no military person should have to swear a religious oath. That is now and has always been the law, despite the fact that we occasionally have to fight to keep that right. MAAF has defended cadets, enlisted persons, and officers in the Army, Air Force, and Navy against low-level attempts to enforce religious oaths. But these are always quickly resolved, thought it does take national effort.
These efforts are relatively quickly resolved because of the strong Constitutional protection and precedent. The body of the Constitution, Article 6 paragraph 3 states clearly, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The first Amendment allows people to swear to God but prohibits any establishment of religion in government, like a religious oath. The federal law of the land, the US Code, starts of in Title 1 Section, excerpted above, says ALL oaths have the option of a secular affirmation. So when Congressman Johnson hears that someone else affirmed rather than swearing to a God, nothing was changed. So this legislation, which restricts any oath changes to Congressional authority, would allow for the ongoing secular affirmations to continue with no Congressional oversight.
Repeated requests for comment from MAAF went without response from Rep Johnson’s office. Johnson represents Plano, TX, north of Dallas with apparently no military installations and certainly not the Air Force Academy. He was a POW in Vietnam for nearly seven years. Over the phone, staff variously commented that the bill was merely procedural, that it would not take away the option, merely require Congressional input, and that Representative Johnson would support having “So Help Me God” optional if Congress were invited for input. However, staff refused to put any of these statements on record
and refused a meeting with MAAF or foxhole atheists to ensure the bill was respectful, reasonable, and inclusive. One can only conclude that the phone responses were propaganda and not actually true. Representative Johnson proudly posted comments he made on the floor of Congress
to make his true Christian Nation agenda known.
“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire. In 2013, the U.S. Air Force Academy made the phrase “so help me God” optional in the oath each cadet takes. And why did they do this? Because of one radical atheist group’s demands! Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion – but not freedom from religion. That’s why I am introducing legislation that requires Congressional approval before any change would be made to military oaths. The moral foundation of our country is in serious danger if we allow radical groups to dictate whether or not we can freely express our religious beliefs! It’s time to take a stand.”
Johnson wants to promote his religious agenda, enforce Christianity, disenfranchise atheists, disrespect a large secular portion of the military, and toss out the Constitution entirely. And he wants to enforce his religion under the banner of “religious freedom” — this is the Orwellian Doublespeak common among the Congressional and military evangelicals recently. Not only that, but the legislation is makes little sense in practice as it doesn’t actually do anything. It just asks for Congressional input – more bureaucracy from a supposedly small-government conservative. It doesn’t legislate a religious oath, but he has made his intentions clear.
There are two types of oaths in question. The first are the US Code mandated oaths of office and enlistment (below) and the Academy-specific honor oaths referred to in the 2013 news story. The Academy honor oaths should have nothing to do with federal law, but he wants to have oversight to ensure his religious principles are enforced in this very specific item.
In the end, Representative Johnson will make some money from his constituents and fire up his evangelical base. The legislation itself can do nothing but add bureaucracy to a bloated government. A secular oath in all cases is still mandated by the Constitution, and the US Code still mandates that an affirmation be provided for whenever there is an oath. But the Evangelical rhetoric continues along with disrespect for foxhole atheists.