References to God in oaths are becoming optional.
The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the latest organization to not require cadets to recite the phrase if they don't want to, according to a report by the Associated Press.
"Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the change was made to respect cadets' freedom of religion," AP reported. "The oath states, 'We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.’ ”
The change comes about a month after the Britain Scouting Association approved an alternate version of the Scout Promise that makes no mention of God. Scouting officials there said it was done to make the organization more inclusive and welcoming to nonbelievers.
But AP reported the change by the Air Force came after the advocacy group Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained the words "so help me God" violated the constitutional concept of religious freedom.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, welcomed the change but questioned how it will be applied.
"What does it mean, 'optional’?” Weinstein said to AP. "The best thing is to eliminate it."
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes wrote that the oath administered to cadets at the conclusion of basic cadet training was created in 1984 and the words “so help me God” were added later in the aftermath of an alleged cheating scandal.
“To add more seriousness to the oath, we decided to mirror the commissioning oath and add the words, ‘so help me, God,’ ” said retired Brig. Gen. Hans Mueh, a member of the committee that made the change, according to Starnes.
Neither the Army nor Navy oaths recited by new cadets include the phrase, "so help me God."
Some presidents have added the phrase in their swearing-in ceremonies, but it is not part of the official oath of office.