Washington – Following today’s announcement that the U.S. Air Force has revised its policy to allow service-members to omit the phrase “So help me God” from its required oath after an air man was denied re-enlistment several weeks ago, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:
“I applaud the Air Force’s decision to revise its policy requiring service-members to say the words ‘so help me God’ in the oath they are obligating to take in order to serve. Not to do so would have been to continue a discriminatory practice in direct contradiction to the religious freedom of the men and women in the armed services. We regularly ask service members to make great sacrifices on behalf of our country; we dare not also ask them to sacrifice their own right to affirm their personal beliefs.
It should be of no consequence that the airman at the center of this policy change was secular. Compliant with the First Amendment to our Constitution, the free-exercise rights of secular service-members must be safeguarded just as surely as the rights of Christians and Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. Time and time again the secular community has proven to be among our staunchest allies in the struggle for religious freedom in America. People who enjoy freedom in their practice of faith must readily rise together to defend the rights of the growing number of Americans who claim no faith.
While I celebrate the Air Force’s decision today, I am disheartened that this policy existed in the first place and that it took so long to change. Clearly, all responsible citizens must remain steadfast working to ensure that all service-members are protected by the Constitution they have volunteered to defend.”
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.