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. Observer

    Remember. God is. I say so.

    October 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I wrote the books about christ

      October 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        I think the new testament was written by alien space creatures

        October 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          No one wrote it. It appeared one day. Stuff don't have to have an origin. Anybody who thinks stuff had to begin, need nothing.

          October 27, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        What is the point of stealing my name and posting your lies?

        October 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  2. Observer

    Truth is, god exists but he is a big meany. I have devoted my life to prove he ain't real even though I know he is!

    October 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  3. Observer

    Truth is, god exists but he is a big meany. I have devoted my life to prove he ain't real even though I know he is.

    October 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • fyi

      There is another person who posts on these blogs under the name of "Observer" who is much more intelligent than this one. Don't be confused. This one is a known troll.

      October 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
      • fyi

        That FYI is a trolling fat head!

        October 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • Observer


        Thank you for your support. Unlike the fake Observer, I believe in honesty and morals. The fake Christian doesn't follow the Bible and is probably just some really sick troll.

        October 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  4. Atheism is the natural state of children and every living thing

    How was your Sunday? Well-churched? Remember that if there is a God out there, it's not the God you believe in. And it hasn't indicated that it cares for or about your worship. Its body isn't in what you ate or drank. It did not die for your sins.

    October 27, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  5. Observer

    (Gen. 7:21) “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and ALL HUMAN BEINGS”

    Every CHILD dead.
    Every BABY dead.
    Every FETUS dead.
    Millions and millions of animals DEAD.

    October 27, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  6. Alias

    In ancient times, before we understood things like lightning and everyone thought there were gods, an oath had merit because people feared punishment if they swore to a god and broke the promise.
    That was why they made people take oaths before testifying, before serving in government or military, before getting a passport ...... and these practices are still in place today.

    October 27, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      The word testify itself, comes from the ancient greek. When you had to tell people what you know/saw/ heard, they would sacrifice a ram, and then the person would give testimony, that is to say, they held the severed testicles of the animal while giving their statement, so the gods would be paying attention.
      So testimony, has its roots in testicles. (Literally)

      October 27, 2013 at 10:22 am |
      • Alias

        Rocky Mountain Oysters before they knew about te Rocky Mountains?
        Gross, yet interesting.

        October 27, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • Kim

        That's nuts

        October 27, 2013 at 10:26 am |
        • Deez Nutz


          October 27, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • Somthing

        Gee, thanks for the imagery. Now I will go try to forget I ever heard you talk about whatever that was.

        October 27, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • Sara

        Etymology.com has a slightly different take:

        testament (n.)
        late 13c., "last will disposing of property," from Latin testamentum "a will, publication of a will," from testari "make a will, be witness to," from testis "witness," from PIE *tris- "three" (see three) on the notion of "third person, disinterested witness."

        Use in reference to the two divisions of the Bible (c.1300) is from Late Latin vetus testamentum and novum testamentum, loan-translations of Greek palaia diatheke and kaine diatheke. Late Latin testamentum in this case was a mistranslation of Greek diatheke, which meant both "covenant, dispensation" and "will, testament," and was used in the former sense in the account of the Last Supper (see testimony) but subsequently was interpreted as Christ's "last will.

        It looks like the testes theory isn't heavily supported.

        October 27, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          I came acrossed that while studying Socrates. I haven't looked into it for many years, so it is unconfirmed.

          October 27, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  7. thomas chang

    What is the definition of the word " god " stand for. Until we all agreed to the same meaning . So far the word god can be used in any forms. pending to each individual desire.how can any one / group come to debate ? I wish CNN put on the air to define the meaning of the word "god ".

    October 27, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • truthprevails1

      The only definition that should apply comes from a little book called a dictionary.
      a. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
      b. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
      2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
      3. An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
      4. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
      5. A very handsome man.
      6. A powerful ruler or despot.

      There so many versions of 'god' that fit the above definition and not one of the god imagined by man (thus all gods) can be verified to exist or have existed

      October 27, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  8. phk46

    Shouldn't "so help me God" spoken by a non-believer be considered blasphemy?

    October 27, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • saggyroy

      But non-believers can't commit blasphemy.

      October 27, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • Jaybus Cripe

        Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

        October 27, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ridiculous and pointless, yes, blasphemy no since that phrase itself is not sacrilige.

      I was in the Air force in the mid 80's. I never took any oath that had any mention of any gods. Even then, they had accomodations for atheists. I affirmed, I acknowledged, but I never swore to any gods. My dog tags came to me, said no rel pref (no religous preference) I made them take them and correct them to atheist. There was never any arguements, there were no problems, they had provisions to accept people of all beliefs, and that was 30 years ago.

      Why is this news?

      October 27, 2013 at 9:08 am |
      • Old Geezer #2

        Hey, you old geezer! Get out your Victrola and play us a tune!

        October 27, 2013 at 9:12 am |
      • ME II

        @Richard Cranium,
        I think there may have been an increase in the overhead religiosity in the military since then, but I could be wrong.

        October 27, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Diogenes

        Richard Cranium, imagine that there is a box that has proof that there are no gods and no afterlife.
        Proof so concrete that there would be no way for you to deny it. That there are no gods at all and never were.

        Question: Would you open the box or prefer to not know for sure that there was no afterlife and no gods?
        Would you prefer your comfort zone of not knowing for sure, or would you want to know you only had the life you have?

        October 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          I seek to find what is...nothing more. I do not go in with expectations of what I will find.

          October 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • Diogenes

          I'm gonna bitchslap you, boy.

          October 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
        • Diogenes

          My apologies. You did indeed answer just fine. Thank you.

          October 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • sam stone.

      If god has a plan, isn't attempting to change things through prayer blasphemy? Does the person doing the praying purport to know better than god?

      October 27, 2013 at 9:21 am |
      • Yes.

        Pray selflessly.

        October 27, 2013 at 9:28 am |
        • ha ha

          It's impossible to do anything selflessly.

          October 27, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • bostontola

      Amazing how self centered your thinking is. The USG is asking a citizen to swear an oath and puts in a phrase that would force that citizen to lie if they didn't believe. This is not a religious issue at all, it is a Consti.tutional issue. Our Govt shouldn't be using religious belief as a tool to get believers to be loyal, and it shouldn't ask nonbelievers lie on an oath. If I was a believer, I would be offended that the USG is misusing its power.

      October 27, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Alias

        I think their intentions are to unite the troops. The Air Force is not trying to promote religion, they want the rank & file united. If religion can do that, they will use religion.

        October 27, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • tallulah13

          But history shows that religion is not a force for unification. If it was, there wouldn't be over 30,000 different sects of christianity alone. It cannot work in a nation where we are allowed to believe or not believe as our conscience dictates. Therefore, using "god" is a divisive element, and the Air Force was entirely correct to remove it from their pledge.

          October 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  9. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by earth; for it is His footstool:" Matthew 5:34-35

    The simple answer is that there should never have been an oath of any kind.

    Assuming an oath was proper, these words should never have been in the oath.

    The problem arose because Jesus' Words were ignored in the first instance.

    If the prompting of The Holy Spirit had been attended to, there would be no controversy.

    God is not the Author of confusion, but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    October 27, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Colonel H.M.Harrington, 3rd Regiment Commanding

      Dear Caleb Boone,
      It is with great sorrow that I tell you of your bear's death. It was seen shitting in the wood and had to be shot.

      Colonel H.M.Harrington, 3rd Regiment Commanding

      October 27, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  10. NewsFlash

    Prayer is the WAY UP YOUR OWN BUTT

    October 27, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Shaving cream

      Last night went I went into my bathroom, I stepped in a big pile of shaving cream...be nice and clean...shave every day and you'll always look keen

      October 27, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  11. Mirosal

    No, it doesn't, and your own doctrine says it can't.

    October 27, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Mirosal

      Doctrine says "god" is omniscient. Therefore, "god" knows all, past present and future. That IS doctrine. Since the outcome is already known to your "god", pryer is moot, because the game is already rigged. It's like arranging the score of a football game. you can cheer all you want, but the final score has been set before the game starts. Your cheers are useless, much like prayers are useless. What part of this simple grade school logic are you unable to comprehend?

      October 27, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • OkGo

      What doctrine says that God is omniscient and that prayer does not work?
      Why did Jesus teach how to pray?

      October 27, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Oh troll of many names, do you pray for forgiveness after each post??

      October 27, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  12. Swearing oaths

    I know you guys are thinking without oaths how can we trust one another as human beings? How do we trust one another?
    You can't.
    You don't.
    You never will.

    October 27, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Crom

      Not so. Rational people are easier to trust, as are predictable people. That's all an oath or promise tries to ensure: a predictable future trend set by intent and agreed to under certain conditions. It's not a one-way street. The conditions of the oath are often undeclared and unenforceable as well as being unverifiable.

      You cannot serve two masters. If you think your religion is above the law, then you are little better than a criminal and should be barred from ever serving anyone else, especially barred from serving as an employee of the US Gov't / American People.

      Attempting to overthrow our government by stealth, sedition, propaganda, obstruction, violence and dishonesty and corruption of every sort, just so you can have your own "Jesus Country", then you are indeed a traitor or other enemy of the United States of America.

      Serving two masters? Can't be done if one of them is a "god" or one of them is the US Government. They are exclusionary.

      October 27, 2013 at 6:52 am |
      • Kebos

        Crom – Excellent post.

        October 27, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • NewsFlash

      Trust is a curious thing. I can trust you to keep breathing for a long time, but can I trust you to not spit in my food? No.

      October 27, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Tut tut

      You silly goose. The trust was already there or the oath would never have been administered in the first place.
      You know nothing of military training. Do be so good as to refrain from this sort of thing in the future, won't you?
      We'd all just love it if you could stretch your mind a little to catch those holes in your thinking. Yes, we would indeed.
      So, thank you for any consideration you could possibly give to your analysis in the future.

      October 27, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  13. Sean Lynch

    Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame

    October 27, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • Swearing oaths

      And even as I wander, I'm keeping you in sight, you're a candle in the window on a cold dark winter's night

      October 27, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • Vicar of Dibleyshire, East Farthing, and Tiddles the Cat

      Sounds like someone is so deep in the closet they need to send us messages in crazy talk. Good times all 'round, I'd say.

      October 27, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • Tut tut

        Indeed. One could even say that it had its advantages. (wink wink)

        October 27, 2013 at 9:49 am |
        • Idle

          Oh, yeah, know what you mean know what you mean. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Right I know exactly how it goes now.
          Say no more say no more!

          October 27, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  14. Apple Bush

    All you want me for is your stupid sex

    I do

    I know, they are wonderful

    I went behind your back

    We are making a mistake

    Her first date


    October 27, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  15. Apple Bush

    Important Update!


    October 27, 2013 at 5:01 am |
  16. guest

    Wouldn’t it be great if the politicians would take such an oath and keep it, and I don’t care if they said: “…so help me God”; I just wish they would not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate any of their peers to do so; nonetheless, they have expected the Air Force cadets to do so up until now.

    October 27, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • guest

      P.S. If a person doesn’t believe in God to make such an oath is in its self a lie.

      October 27, 2013 at 2:31 am |
  17. Apple Bush

    Jeez, you leave for a few hours and come back to find you have been posting the whole time. It is a miracle.

    October 27, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • tallulah13

      The lord moves in mysterious ways. As do trolls.

      October 27, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  18. Observer

    Since the alias stealer doesn't believe in the Bible, he/she must be a troll who pretends to be a Christian.

    (Exodus 23:1) "You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
    (Matt. 19:18) “Do not tell lies about others.” [Jesus]
    (Prov. 6:16-19) "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying
    tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in
    running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
    (Prov. 6:19) “The Lord hates a false witness who utters lies”
    (Prov. 19:5 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape”
    (Psalm 5:6) "You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies."

    The Bible says that God hates him, but he doesn't care. This fake Christian has been exposed. At least atheists can agree with him for not believing that God said those things. What a world class HYPOCRITE and LIAR.

    October 27, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  19. Alias

    It seems they would have to remove that line.
    Otherwise, atheists would effectivelybe lying at the end of the oath.

    October 27, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • tallulah13

      Perhaps they are tired of cadets who need supernatural threats in order to be honorable.

      October 27, 2013 at 12:53 am |
      • Swearing oaths

        Let's take that thought of yours T13 and expand it one step further. Honor itself is an opinion. I know what it means to me to be honorable but is that the same thing it means to you or anyone else, unlikely.

        October 27, 2013 at 5:49 am |
  20. AvdBerg spam watch

    Please report abuse any time you see AvdBerg blogspam.

    October 27, 2013 at 12:00 am |
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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.