The United States Air Force has agreed to allow airmen to omit the phrase “so help me God” while reciting the enlistment oath.
Their decision came about after an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada failed to complete his reenlistment because he crossed out the phrase on a form, reports the Washington Post. The American Humanist Association got involved in the case and threatened to sue the Air Force for violating the man’s religious freedom if it didn’t allow him to enlist without the phrase.
The Air Force reportedly used to allow airmen to omit the word “God” “if desired for personal reasons,” but the exemption went away in October 2013 and the phrase was then required for enlistment or reenlistment.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement that the change will be effective immediately and that they are making all adjustments necessary to protect Airmen’s religious rights.
“The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now,” James said. “Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.”
Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said the call was the right one and that it will align the Air Force with other branches of the military, reports Fox News. “There has always been a respect for those who are not theists in our country,” Crews said. “We want those airmen who believe in God to be able to say these words and we respect the right of those who abstain.”