Update: Air Force officials have agreed to administer a secular oath and to allow a revision of the written oath the Officer Trainee was required to sign to remove the “so help me God” reference. Maj. Stewart L. Rountree has written attorneys for the American Humanist Association and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that the entire graduating class will be informed of the option to take a secular oath and apologized for the error. “Our previous legal advisors were mistaken in advising us that it was required,” Maj. Roundtree wrote. “Our current legal advisors made me aware and we will ensure it reaches all corners of our program.”
American Humanist Association Represents Officer Trainee Forced to Assert God Belief
For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC – Aug 5, 2013)—A U.S. Air Force Officer Trainee is demanding that he not be forced to recite an oath that contains “so help me God” during his graduation ceremony tomorrow.
Attorneys with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, working with the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, have sent a letter to administrators at Maxwell AFB in Alabama outlining the reasons a forced statement of god-belief is not constitutional, including numerous court cases upholding the right of those who object to oaths with religious language to take a secular version instead.
“A non-religious person cannot be forced to affirm the existence of a God,” said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Coordinator Bill Burgess. “The law is clear that such demands violate the constitutional mandate of church-state separation and the right to freedom of conscience. This officer-to-be must be allowed to omit theistic language from his commissioning oath.”
The letter states that a lawsuit is possible if a secular oath is not allowed. The letter sent to Maxwell AFB administrators can be found here.
# # #
The American Humanist Association (americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington D.C., its work is extended through more than 175 local chapters and affiliates across the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.