U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson introduced a bill that would make it illegal for any branch of the military to change its oaths unless approved by Congress.
Johnson said he wrote the legislation in response to a 2013 decision made by U.S. Air Force Academy to make the phrase, "so help me God," an optional part of its oath.
Before the change, the cadet honor oath was, "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God."
Since 1984, cadets must recite the code when they first join basic training. Cadets are required to take the oath once every year, said Air Force Academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal.
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U.S. Air Force Academy leaders said they decided to make the phrase optional after receiving a complaint for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that advocates for religious freedom within the U.S. military.
Vidal said a cadet has the option while the cadet wing honor chair leads the pledge.
Johnson said he thinks one small group should not dictate changes to how the military conducts itself.
“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 said.
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The honor code’s changed language is meant to create a more inclusive and accepting environment, said Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, academy superintendent.
"Here at the academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference -- or not," Johnson added.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Academy