Until last week, every member of the U.S. Air Force had to literally swear to God in order to join. The Air Force Oath of Enlistment promises to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It vows to bear “true faith and allegiance” to that mightiest of political documents, to obey the president and commanding officers and to abide by the rules of military justice code, “So help me God.”
It’s the last part that got an atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base into trouble recently, when he struck out the final line on his reenlistment paperwork, because, as his lawyer told the AP, “He can’t take an oath for a God he doesn’t believe in.” A policy against omitting portions of the oath resulted in an ultimatum from his commanders: Swear to God, or say goodbye to the Air Force. He chose option C: Fight for his religious freedom.
And last Wednesday he won: The religious passage may now be omitted if an airman so chooses. Who do we have to thank for demanding the Air Force get with the times (and the other military branches) and update an antiquated policy? The Creech technical sergeant’s lawyer said he has decided to stay anonymous to avoid retaliation—a stark reminder that even in the face of this small victory, America still has a long way to go.