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U.S. Air Force Reverses Decision to Enforce ‘So Help Me God’ in Oath

American Humanist Association Applauds Victory for Atheist Airman

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, cell: 724-344-7561, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, dniose@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers applaud the U.S. Air Force for allowing an atheist Airman to reenlist using a secular affirmation that does not include the phrase “so help me God.”

“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. “We hope the Air Force will respect the constitutional rights of Atheists in the future.” 

On August 25, an Airman at the Creech Air Force Base was told that he could not reenlist and omit the phrase “so help me God” from his contract. After being informed of this matter by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to U.S. Air Force officials insisting that the Airman be permitted to reenlist using a secular affirmation. On September 9, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent Air Force officials a second letter, informing them that if the Airman was not allowed to reenlist without the religious phrase by September 19, they would have no choice but to file suit.  However, the Department of Defense recently informed the U.S. Air Force that it must allow the Airman to reenlist without including the religious language in his contract. A press release from the Pentagon can be viewed 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 Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers have also issued a statement on this matter.

A copy of the letter originally sent to U.S. Air Force officials can be viewed here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.