The test oath: the Air Force does the right thing

The Air Force agrees to stop forcing religious oaths on its members; Pat Robertson is angry.

Some good news: though apparently there’s no one in the Air Force capable of reading the Constitution and drawing the correct conclusions, the DoD General Counsel office labors under no such disability, and accordingly the Air Force will return to its pre-2013 practice (matching the practice of the other services) and make the phrase “so help me God” optional in its enlistment oath.

Patrick Vaughan, General Counsel for the American Family Association, had a very interesting post on the original decision. He reports, citing a 1951 case, [U.S. v. Slozes, 1 CMR 47],

Long ago, the Court of Military Appeals clarified that “In cases of affirmation the phrase ‘So help you God’ will be omitted”

Since the statute allows an affirmation as an alternative to an oath, that precedent would seem to dispose of the argument that the Air Force was simply following the statute. That makes the original decision that much more outrageous; I hope the Secretary of the Air Force will ensure that this outrage has career consequences for whoever made it.

Kudos to Vaughan for Saying the Thing That Is even when he and his employer might have preferred it to be otherwise.

The Baptist Joint Committee is pleased; Pat Robertson is angry that the Air Force backed down in the face of “one little Jewish radical.”

I have to agree with Robertson: little Jewish radicals have always been a pain in the butt.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

2 thoughts on “The test oath: the Air Force does the right thing”

  1. I think the headline needs some revision. The Air Force apparently did see not the error of its way and do the right thing. It was ordered to change by the Dept of Defense's lawyers and it seems to have grudgingly relented.

    The Air Force has been infiltrated and taken over by radical Christianists loyal to the Republican Party. If we can't figure out a way to reverse this process, we are headed down the same path as Pakistan.

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