“I Swear to God…”

“I Swear to God…”


The United States Armed Forces is known worldwide for being one of the strongest and most influential tactical units ever to exist, but does their influence extend into territory beyond their reach even within their own country? Is it possible that a government organization that preaches and claims to defend freedom and liberty contradicts itself with their own actions? Unnamed atheist United States Air Force Sergeant stationed at Creech Air Force base in Nevada has been denied the opportunity to re-enlist because of his religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

The Air Force had denied the airman’s application for reenlistment because the contract he submitted had a portion of the oath reading “Or so help me God” crossed off of the contract. The service requires all service men and women to swear the oath before enlisting is accepted. The airman was told he would only be allowed to reenlist if he complied with this rule. The American Humanist Association, a group that defends the rights of humanists, atheists’ and other non-religious beliefs that excluding the air man due to his atheist stance is a direct violation of his constitutional right under the first amendment.

Religious academia encompasses many areas of study such as theologians, anthropologists, philosophers and historians creating an inter-disciplinary field of study. Ninian Smart’s method of studying religion describes a four facet approach including social, philosophical, psychological and historical, but Smart’s definition lacks a field that is relevant to the story mentioned, and that is political. The airman’s religious view is in direct conflict with the government’s constitution, Monica Miller, a lawyer for AHA mentions that the airman’s right to practice his religion is recognized by judicial courts of the defense department but yet each branch of the military has the ability to decide whether to implement the oath or not. Religious freedom and political compliance have not always historically gone hand in hand but the United States of America, a country that claims to fight for freedom is not exactly leading by example in this. The importance of political freedom and religious freedom is an ongoing controversial topic world-wide but in a place known for their emphasis on liberty it is no less than surprising.

When reading this article the first thing that came to mind was the idea of church and state, how closely is religious sovereignty tied to political freedom in a country as “free” as the United States? Is it right that the country you’re defending superimpose their belief system without consent? The right to freedom of religion should be each individual’s preference no matter what department they’re working in or country they reside in as long as no individuals are harmed.




One thought on ““I Swear to God…”

  1. It is very interesting to see that in one of the most religiously free countries in the world, the United States, atheists are largely treated as second class citizens in institutions, such as the Air Force, that are deeply steeped in traditions. In courts, people are given the choice between a religious oath or a secular affirmation. As this action is one “that would require congressional action”, it seems the current laws are lacking around religious freedom, although with American culture, a new and more inclusive law would not be hard to pass. I hope that a new law is introduced soon, and if not, one could easily see the precedent for a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court. It is interesting that you mention how political assessment of the state of various religions are important, but I would suggest that many of the political cases about religion can largely be boiled down to social-cultural phenomenon. For example, in this case, I believe that the culture of tradition in the Armed Forces is largely responsible for the causation of laws protecting those traditions. Although in the cases of communist countries that restrict religious freedoms so harshly that religions can disappear is strictly political, this is an extreme example. I believe that social-cultural explanations could encompass the vast majority of politically religious events.

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