Thursday, 18 September 2014

The "So Help Me God" Situation

For decades....DoD (Department of Defense)....Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy....had an oath requirement when you enlist or re-enlist.  At the end, there is an optional say "so help me God" or you just affirm what you vowed and leave out the God phrase.

If you were an atheist, you could take the second option and just avoid any religious talk.  All of this worked OK, for decades.

So in 2013, someone in the Air Force....they won't say who....determined that there would be one oath, and it'd have to require you to recite the phrase "so help me God" at the end, period.  No exceptions, no waivers.

It didn't really appear in any media, and if you asked around.....barely a thousand people probably noticed the change.

But you could predict a problem would occur sooner or it did in August of this year.  An NCO came up for re-enlistment, and the paperwork for the oath only allowed the God-phrase to be options....and this NCO was an atheist.

The guy took the paperwork, and did everything right....then crossed-out the phrase at the end, and did everything except that God-phrase.  It didn't work....the unit wouldn't accept the amended paperwork, and noted that if he did September, he'd be out of the service.

Well....all of this crap hit the fan....and went to DC to the Pentagon.  They stood there kinda amazed.  Naturally, the Pentagon legal staff is involved, and days of discussion went into this.  Oddly enough, the Marines, Army and Navy were puzzled.  They hadn't done anything to change their oath requirements....they still offered two different ways of doing the oath.  So, naturally, they leaned over to ask the embarrassed Air Force legal guys....what the hell was going on here?

Silence is more or less what was noted.  

After days of internal discussion....this week, the mess was fixed.  The Pentagon told the Air Force.....there's two ways of doing the oath, and the God-phrase is optional.

When this mess started in 2013.....who was attached to the change?  I can only take a guess.  I noted back in 1993, upon arriving at Bitburg Air Base....that suddenly I had three recent graduates of the Air Force Academy in my new shop.  One of the "gentlemen" was a religious nut, to the ninth-degree.  Being a officer, I had to respect the guy for authority, but his commentary over unacceptable behavior....required me to continually note to him that people were entitled to be different.  The other two graduates....had a strong difference of opinion with him, and considered him more of an outsider.  But in conversations....both noted that there were a number of religious enthusiasts at the Academy, and it was going to be an issue in the years to come.

Well....those years have arrived, and those graduates are all now senior leaders in the Air Force.  Religious authority has finally arrived, and forcing changes that aren't part of the general Air Force culture.  This week....the Pentagon legal staff corrected their behavior.  I'm kinda of the view that there will be more corrections down the road.  It's not finished.

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