Air Force makes 'God' optional in honor code
The Air Force Academy has made a big change to its honor code to reflect religious diversity.
October 25th, 2013
05:11 PM ET

Air Force makes 'God' optional in honor code

By Emily Smith, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. Air Force Academy has decided to make phrase "so help me God" optional in its honor code after an activist group protested that requiring all cadets to recite it violates their rights.

The complete oath reads: "We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does, so help me God."

Cadets are required to recite the oath when they complete basic training. It is also taken by the entire cadet wing each year as re-affirmation of their commitment to the honor code, said AFA spokesman Major Brus Vidal.

The Military for Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group that has waged repeated battle with the armed services, took issue with the last clause of the sentence, saying that no cadets should be forced to make a promise to God.

After the complaint was filed by MRFF, the Air Force Academy Honor Review Committee met for an in-depth discussion regarding the oath.

On Friday, the AFA released a statement saying they had decided to make the final clause of the honor oath optional.

The AFA statement read, in part, “Here at the Academy, we world 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.”

"The fact that the oath is optional will be communicated in honor lessons, leadership lessons, and religious respect lessons during the summer (cadet basic military training) so all trainees will understand prior to taking the Cadet Honor Oath that the final clause will be completely optional," said Vidal.

"The person administering the oath, who is the cadet wing honor chair has the option to say or not say 'so help me god," so this might vary from year to year," Vidal continued.

MORE ON CNN: Air Force: Bible and nukes don't mix

Mikey Weinstein, MRFF's founder and president, said he would sue the academy on behalf of his clients if the words were still left at the end of the oath, even if repeating them was optional.

“If the words are still there and you don’t say [them] you turn yourself into a tarantula on a wedding cake,” he said.

MRFF has taken issue with the Air Force before. In 2011, the group complained about an Air Force training presentation that used religion to teach the ethics and morality of using nuclear weapons.

That same year, CNN learned that the Air Force was using religious tenets such as the Ten Commandments to teach core values to ROTC cadets.

MORE ON CNN: Air Force's use of Christian messages extends to ROTC

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Culture wars • Discrimination • God • Military • Politics

soundoff (2,610 Responses)
  1. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Love the fact that they added a picture of the chapel at the top of this story.

    Very proud of their chapel they are at the US Air Force Academy.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  2. AllSEye

    You might as well remove"In God we trust" from every dollar bill. Should've never been there in the first place

    October 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Works for me.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Gol

      Yeah..good luck with that.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  3. Mike

    Glad to see the Air Force is, once again, leading the way.

    If you insist on invoking invisible spirits, then the harm is probably minimal. But if you insist that everyone pay homage to your sky god, then I object. The Air Force relies upon science to keep airplanes airborne, not magic.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • BR549

      LOL, couldn't agree more Mike.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I thought it was the US Army Rangers who lead the way?

      The Air Force Academy and West Point have been a hold-out on these "so help me God" parts of the oaths.

      It's not a coincidence that Colorado Springs is known as "The Evangelical Vatican" or "The Christian Mecca".

      October 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • John Smith

      Do birds rely on science to fly?

      October 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Thanks to evolution, they are born able to do so. WIthout aerospace engineering, airplanes don't.

        October 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        I should be more precise. Birds are hatched.

        October 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  4. Adam

    good, times need to change for the better.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jerry

      For the better?? Have you been watching the news? Open your eyes and see the power of evil all around us. What in the world is wrong with focusing our lives and morals on God, unless someone doesn't actually have any morals.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
      • JWT

        No god is necessary to have excellent morals.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
        • John Smith

          That's what Marx and Lenin said. FAIL

          October 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
      • TheMan2013

        There is no evil, there's just us humans. Get used to it. We do bad things, we do good things. In most cases the bad things are humans doing things in their own self interest, there's no mystical force guiding them. People just suck sometimes, that's life, it's not fair.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • Watta Rube

        What in the world is wrong with focusing our lives and morals on God?

        Answer: God doesn't exist. How about we focus our morals on something real and do everyone a favor by ceasing to coddle the weakest emotional links in our society at the expense of human equality, freedom, scientific progress and public safety.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
      • Bryant Lister

        In 1935, the infant mortality rate was over 50%, today it is close to 5%. So, yes things have gotten better with the removal of religious cult nonsense.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
        • John Smith

          Bryant, car engines are better now also, does your argument apply to that also?

          October 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
      • sam stone.

        if you refain from doing bad because "god" told you not do, you are not exhibiting morality any more than a dog not jumping on a couch because he has been chided not to

        October 25, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
        • John Smith

          Baloney Sam, you have stopped yourself from doing things wrong at times, just because it was wrong, the conscience God gave you told you to not do it. Other times you did not do something bad because there was some form of punishment out there... if you got caught.

          October 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • Zoop

          John Smith
          And you behave because if you don't you will go to Hell instead of Heaven, leading to an eternity of punishment. There is no morality in Christianity, just fear of punishment.

          October 26, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. Christian

    This reminds me of Communists so much. Remember? The first thing they did – removed God from everywhere. God was forbidden in Russia for all USSR existence. Looks like its US turn to go down. We never learn from history. US was based on GOD. Iran just punished 20 Christians with 80 lashes each for being Christian. And we embrace muslims as it is their land.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "US was based on GOD"

      How do you figure that? The United States government is of the people and says so right in the Const.itution.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Andrew

      This country was founded on Religious oppression is bad. Making someone swear under god when they do not believe in a god or your god is religious oppression. You give an example of a country punishing someone for being christian, when in your comment you want to punish someone for not being christian.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
      • John Smith

        How so Andrew? – We were a land of freedom, now we bow at the LGBT altar.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
        • Fred Evil

          Poor John Smith, having to let other people live their lives without his judgement or control!!

          October 25, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
        • John Smith

          Fred Evil, that is something Jerry S would think of.

          October 25, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Pest

      Having the government maintain religious neutrality is not removing "god from everywhere". No one is telling you that you may not follow whatever asinine mythological nonsense you please, so no...it's nothing like Communist Russia. You consider not being allowed to thrust said nonsense on other citizens to be oppression, and that is pure irrationality.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
      • John Smith

        We will be just as bad as Communist Russia in the near future. Reminds me of something J. Vernon McGee said. He said he was golfing and a man said he did not believe in God, McGee replied, that's okay, one day you will believe in him.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • sam stone.

      Do you think that posting "god" in all caps makes your argument any less dumb?

      October 25, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  6. Billy

    God is optional everywhere...It is an indication of times to come and the time will come ...

    October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • TheMan2013

      God is for the rubes that wish to believe in the supernatural. It's no different than magic elixirs that cure all ills.

      The GOD elixir cures death, you get to live forever in paradise. The REALITY elixir makes you realize this is all the time you have, you better make it count.

      Funny thing about god and heaven. It's that the biggest social program in the universe. The conservatives complain all the time about how people aren't motivated if they get free housing, free food or free whatever. Yet, the best place in the universe(heaven) provides all that for them. No work, all your friends are there, and all the food you can eat. Who's paying for all that? Better not be my tax dollars!!!!

      October 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
      • John Smith

        You are more complex than the computer you type on and the power system that powers it and the communication system that allows you to post (and of course it's all connected somehow). You would never deny that thousands of intelligent beings allowed this to come to pass over many ages.... but God designing you... pfft. Ridiculous.

        Not buying it. The system of your entire being is too complex. Take a watch, pull it apart, shake parts in box... do this for a million years and see if you get a working watch.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
      • John Smith

        But all the food you eat and air you breath, man did not create that. Sure, you have to pay for somethings but man did not create the vegetables you eat or the meat you might crave at times. Your heaven argument makes no sense. Would you paint my house for free? Would you grow me food for free? The answer is NO.

        God is gracious to offer you a place in heaven though, If you apologize for your sins and accept the fact that Jesus died for them. Tell him you are sorry today.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • sam stone.

      ooooh, the end times....the born againer's wet dream

      October 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
      • John Smith

        Sam, you will be crying like a baby when it happens.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          It's an interesting contrast here – Sam Stone with his believed superior morality is unable to conduct a civil conversation, while John Smith with his believed morality is able. What does that say about Sam Stone's superior morality? And that is the basic problem with many of the atheists here.

          October 25, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
        • sam stone.

          I wonder where Christianity would be without these empty proxy threats. Do they help or hinder it?

          Johnny Boy, get off your knees and try not to be such a snivelling little b1tch

          October 26, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  7. Mopery

    ...so help me Osiris! ...so help me Odin! ...so help me Cthulhu!

    October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  8. Mark

    Are we just trying to see how much God can take before he punishes us all? This is getting ridiculous....."Like in the days of Noah".....I guess

    October 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Observer

      End of the world time again!

      This is "news" from THOUSANDS of years ago.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Keith

      I thought we had "FREE WILL" but apparently this god of yours has yet again changed the rules without telling us.
      When your god starts doing what he has vowed to do namely watch out for his children then maybe we will start thanking him. Until that happens your god can go to hell.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
      • John Smith

        Keith, does that apply to Obama too? He passes a laws, creates exemptions for them at the drop of a hat (like with health care). Where is the outrage?

        October 25, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Like Jesus, Obama tries to take care of the needy. What does your answer say about you? Shame on you.

          October 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
        • John Smith

          Neil, if the message is for me. Obama, could have passed small simple bills that were easy to read. A 3800 page bill is not about helping anyone. It is about creating a system of control over people. It is about strangling us with big Government.

          October 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Roger that

      Shirley you can't be serious.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • Watta Rube

      Are you kidding? Come on... The Germans murdered millions of Jews, justified in the name of Jesus, America enslaved millions of black people fover hundreds of years, most of the worlds population doesn't even believe in Jeebus... but you think the removal of doG from an oath is going to be the thing that does us all in? Wake up. God doesn't exist. Its just a myth for the reassurance junkies.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • John Smith

        Hitler thought Christianity was weak and tamed and neutered the Nordic spirit of his people.

        Abolitionists who fought to end slavery, were Christian. Sure... some Christians had slaves but the Bible warns against the love of money, which obviously motivated those slave owners.

        Slavery is still BIG business in Islamic societies in Africa.

        October 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Bryant Lister

      Only children fear fairy tale characters.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • sam stone.

      Did you ever step back and consider what kind of vindictive, petty pr1ck you describe?

      October 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Imaginary, unproven, vindictive prick that apparently only protects the pedophile priests in the RCC.

      October 25, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  9. TheMan2013

    No God nor Man shall have dominion over my me!

    Way to go Airforce!

    October 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Keith

      Let's just watch what happens, if more Air force personnel who DIDN'T include god in their oath met a bad end than those who did mention god then we will know that god is watching. If NOT then what the hell is the good of using gods name in the oath.
      I can't wait for the deluge of excuses over this.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
      • TheMan2013

        Yeah yeah, because that's how god works. Wake up, he's not there, never was never will be. It was made up to appease people that had now clue about the universe, galaxy, or planet they lived on. Now we know the universe is vast, other planets exist and you can bet you ticket to heaven that life exists on other planets in the universe.

        I think a lot of people that believe in GOD don't really want to know if he doesn't exist. There are mountains of evidence that there is no supernatural being that intervenes in humanity. If you ignore that evidence it's probably because the truth is scarier than the fiction.

        But by all means, go on believe whatever stories you like. The truth is out there when you're ready to believe it.

        October 25, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
      • sam stone.

        Your god is a punk, Keith

        And you are nothing but a snivelling sycophant

        October 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  10. Bob Arctor

    tincup54974, I'm looking in your direction as I say that...

    October 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  11. billy

    if god hadnt put these morons on earth they wouldnt be here complaing about anything

    October 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Bob Arctor

      "Oh, look, there's billy, and he's complaining again." -God

      October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  12. svann

    God doesnt need you to pray out loud and publicly. What that really was was an oath of allegiance to the church.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  13. Turp Griswald

    The 'God' thing should be removed from our money too. The only place that the two belong together is at the race track (and the collection plate, I guess).

    October 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Jay Trotter

      I tried...it doesn't work at the track.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  14. tincup54974


    October 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Bob Arctor

      I can't hear you, can you please SPEAK UP?!? (and don't pick your nose...)

      October 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • TheMan2013

        You do not have KNOW these things. You believe them based on stories written thousands of years ago. You have Faith those things are true, but that is not knowledge of them.

        You take second hand accounts and accept them as the truth. YOU KNOW were not there to witness any of the events depiced in the bible., you cannot KNOW that any of it happened. You only believe.

        When they come up with a way to test gods existence, then you can KNOW. Until then, you just another believer.

        October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • sam

      Troll harder, poe.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Keith

      As Rush Limbaugh has said "tell a lie often enough and people will believe it is true", how do you KNOW that 500 people saw JC after he rose? There were NO methods of communication in those days that would enable anyone to find out how many people saw him. WHO counted the 500. There is not one IOTA of evidence that these people all saw JC after he rose from the dead, just SAYING it does NOT make it true. There is NO EVIDENCE that JC rose from the dead either, neither is there any evidence that he was born from a VIRGIN. There was NOBODY around to verify it.
      There is no evidence that JC performed miracles, every one of these "MIRACLES" has a perfectly rationale explanation that does not require magic or parlor tricks.
      The god squad just keep making these baseless assertions and expect everyone to believe them, just saying these claims are true DOES NOT MAKE THEM TRUE.
      We all know the fable about the feeding of the 5,000, WHO COUNTED THE 5,000. How do we know that it wasn't just 50 people or 100. The answer is that we DON'T we have no idea how many people were at the feast.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
      • John Smith

        Many Gospels were written by actual Apostles of Jesus. Except for John (who appears to have died in prison), all of these men met horrible deaths, proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They were scattered across the globe, they could have said it was a scam and moved onto the next town or province. They obviously believed he resurrected. I don't believe Roman guards fell asleep guarding the body of Jesus right after he was executed. The penalty for that is extreme, plus they could have been killed by their own weapons while they slept. If you were a guard in the ghetto and were guarding the body of a guy just executed, would you take a nap or work the rest of your shift awake?

        October 25, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Keith

      So how do you explain why we have the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, the bible does not explain that does it, so there.
      Oh I almost forgot, why do we have Caspar the Ghost, Superman, Batman and Captain Kirk, I bet you can't explain that can you.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Watta Rube

      We have Easter and Christmas because Christians wanted a holiday to pave over the Pagan celebration of the Solstice and Equinox. We have BC and AD because the Catholic Roman empire re-wrote the Greek Calender. "In God We Trust" was added to our currency as a cynical political ploy by a cabal of cynical Republicans in attempt to paint their political enemies as evil heathens. The Bible exists because the ancient civilization of Shem wrote the text as a way of creating a standardized compilation of their myths and because their warlord king needed a way to legitimize his rulership while uniting his forces under the banner of a deity (likely borrowed the idea from the Mesopotamians). The 10 Commandments were part of the Mosaic legal code which was based on the Code of Hammurabi. Any other questions?

      October 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Ummm, suuurrrree they did. (I'll keep him busy, you guys get the jacket!!)

      October 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  15. Wondering

    What if you are an otherwise upstanding service member and you happen to be into tree spirits or some such? Do they sack you just for that?

    October 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Kelcy

      The evangelical christians in the military would if they had their choice.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  16. ALLIE B


    October 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Keith

      You might just as well say help me Santa Claus, you will get more help from him than your idiot god.
      Please spare us your ludicrous beliefs.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  17. Retired US Army Officer

    Everyone who believes that the oath to God should remain is full of it. I attended West Point in the late 1970's. I was literally FORCED to go to a Catholic mass. I do not believe in supernatural beings. At all. Yet to remain a member of the corps of cadets, I was forced to pretend that I did. Religion is BS, and many of us know it. Allow individuals to express their own beliefs but do not force them upon others.

    To those Christians who would force their beliefs upon those of us who are atheists, think about how you would feel if Islam was forced upon you. Sorry buddy, you must get on a mat five times a day and kneel towards Mecca while you pray. Or we will behead you as an infidel. Christianity is the same thing, just a little less extreme.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • sam

      Agreed. Chik-Fil-A would hold some sort of outraged chicken-sale if christians were forced to pray to mecca.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Yeah, just a little less, now.

      October 25, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  18. taxasjimbob

    Hey if you want to live in a country that mixes religion and government I suggest you move to Iran. There you will be "allowed" to pray on public property five times a day. However, you might want to omit that "in Jesus' name" at the end of your prayer.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Brasileiro da Silva

    Airplanes will fall from the sky

    October 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • US Secret Service

      We have tracked your IP and will be contacting you shortly.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  20. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    It doesn't make sense to swear before God in public. God already heard your promise before you got to the "so help me God" part and is going to know what's in your heart and what you do in private. If it's found out that you break the honor code, it's not like the academy is going to say "Well, God will punish you"–the academy will punish you, just like the penalty for perjury is handed down by the law; they don't wait for God's judgment on you. That's why God should be left out of such oaths. Even Jesus said you shouldn't swear by anything, but just answer truthfully yes or no–Matthew 5: 34-37.

    October 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • TheMan2013

      Jesus allegedly said some stuff. It wasn't Jesus writing down what he said was it? No, it was someone else that may have made it all up.

      I find it amusing that true believers will go all in for the bible, but if some random person walked up to them and started spewing an account of Jesus that just happened to them, it's likely they would not believe. Yet random writings from 2000 years ago, totally acceptable as true.

      October 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.