The Air Force has nixed a requirement that all airmen who take the enlistment oath recite the words "so help me God," the military branch said Wednesday.
Previously, the Air Force allowed airmen to nix the words from their oath, but removed that option in October following legal confusion, USA Today reported.
After a review of policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, airmen may again omit the four words.
Cadets raise their right hands as they take the Oath of Office to become 2nd Lieutenants during the graduation ceremony for the United States Air Force Academy class of 2014 at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo)
“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.
“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," she continued. "Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.”
Controversy over the oath was ignited in September, after the American Humanist Association said it was representing an unidentified atheist airman who refused to recite the four words, USA Today reported.
Following the decision to remove the requirement, the atheist group released a statement.
"We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed our client has a First Amendment right to omit the reference to a supreme being in his reenlistment oath," attorney Monica Miller said in a statement Wednesday, according to USA Today. "We hope the Air Force will respect the constitutional rights of Atheists in the future."
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