Tell Your U.S. Representative: Respect All Military Members and Keep God Optional!

March 26, 2015

In 2013, thanks to the efforts of church-state watchdogs, the United States Air Force Academy reversed its policy that made the phrase "so help me God" a mandatory part of its cadet oath — an oath all cadets must give. "So help me God" became, and remains, an option for religious cadets, just as it's an option for all citizens when they give an oath to join the military.

But optional isn't good enough for Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX). To stifle efforts by the military to respect the growing diversity of beliefs within its ranks, last week Johnson introduced the "Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015" (H.R. 1425), which would prevent the military from making any changes to its oaths without obtaining congressional approval. This is an extreme measure that would effectively force cadets and servicemembers to swear an oath to God whether they believe in one or not.

In support of his bill, Rep. Johnson stated: "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 ... Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion — but not freedom from religion."

Servicemembers' religious freedom is "under fire" but, as this example shows, it's sectarian ideologues like Rep. Johnson who are pulling the proverbial trigger.

Freedom of religion requires freedom from religion — especially freedom from compulsion and the establishment of religion by the government. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees this freedom, and, for those seeking public office, Article VI bans religious tests — such as requiring an oath to a God that person may or may not believe in.

Rep. Johnson continued: "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."

Indeed — but Rep. Johnson should take note that "radical groups" can include reactionary lawmakers, and that freedom of religious expression includes the freedom to both abstain and dissent.

Fortunately, you can do your part and take a stand for those freedoms. The Center for Inquiry (CFI) urges you to contact your U.S. Representative today and demand they oppose H.R. 1425. Tell them to not impose religious beliefs and speech on those who volunteer to serve us — honor all servicemembers by keeping God optional!

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#1 David C. Berkshire (Guest) on Friday April 03, 2015 at 9:30am

There is no rational reason that a non-believer should be forced to swear allegiance to a god they do not believe in. If you wish to believe then do so but don’t try to force others.

#2 Thomas Russell (Guest) on Friday April 03, 2015 at 10:30am

This is a must, not even optional. Our military MUST be secular.

#3 Robert Grossman (Guest) on Friday April 03, 2015 at 10:52am

There is no reason why anyone should have to swear allegiance to any god to serve in the military of the United States. I would have had to either lie or forgo my six years of service in the United States Navy had such a requirement existed at my time of enlistment. Instead, there should be an secular oath taken by members of the United States Congress to first read and then uphold and defend the constitution of the United States.

#4 Ronald G Steelman (Guest) on Saturday April 04, 2015 at 4:54am

This was settled long ago in our Constitution. Religious people must stop trying to force non-believers to believe. Our government must not take part in this in any way. You must oppose H.R. 1425. No “God oaths” should exist. Period.

#5 Julie S Viergutz (Guest) on Saturday April 04, 2015 at 6:04am

Freedom of religion and the freedom to choose not to have a religion is a Constitutional right.

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