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Legislators Demand Religious Oath be Mandatory

You knew when the Air Force made the perfectly reasonable decision to make “so help me God” voluntary in the Cadet Honor Code, the wingnuts were going to lose their minds over it. So of course two legislators from Texas are submitting a bill to make it mandatory again.

In response to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s unilateral decision to make the phrase, ‘so help me God’ of the Cadet Honor Oath optional, Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03) introduced H.R. 3416, a bill that would require congressional approval prior to any change to Oaths of Office. Johnson joined by original co-sponsor Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22) released the following statement:

“Our Founding Fathers declared we are, ‘One nation under God,’ and you better believe I’ll fight like mad to keep it that way,” said Johnson.

No, you ignorant demagogue, they did not declare that. That phrase was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954, more than a century and a half later. But that’s what is known as a “fact,” which is as irrelevant in your world as prayer as in mine. And the Air Force didn’t take the religious phrase out of the oath, it made it voluntary. A cadet who doesn’t believe in God can make the same oath without it. Hey, you know what other oath doesn’t include “so help me God”? The one the president takes. It’s right in the Constitution, written by those same Founding Fathers you are so fond of and so blissfully ignorant of.

Johnson spent nearly 7 years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam – more than half of that time in solitary confinement. Remembering his time in captivity, Johnson said, “Our captors tried to break our spirits daily. One year, a group of POWs in the prison we dubbed the Hanoi Hilton decided to defy our captors and hold a church service. They hated that we found unity and strength in God and one another. As armed guards surrounded us, a fellow POW pounced onto the poor excuse for a bed and belted out the national anthem and ‘God Bless America.’ I remember how the magnitude of the moment and the magic of the music overpowered any illness or ache. For a fleeting time, we felt strong and faithful. It was truly the greatest gift each of us had during those endless days of torture, isolation, and starvation. It’s not only my experience, but that of my fellow POWs, veterans, and those currently in harm’s way that make ‘so help me God’ vital to the oath. I urge my colleagues to join this effort to protect the legacy of freedom of religion.”

Only on Planet Wingnuttia and in George Orwell books could a bill to force non-religious soldiers to make religious statements be called an effort to protect religious freedom. Up is down, black is white, war is peace. And this kind of demagoguery just drives me crazy. Johnson being a former POW has absolutely nothing to do with the issue. He’s citing it solely to get people’s emotions fired up. But the argument is inane: “I’m a former POW whose faith in God helped him get through that experience, therefore Air Force cadets should be forced to make religious statements they don’t believe in” is an utterly moronic statement.

And seriously, why would they even want an atheist soldier to swear an oath to a god they don’t believe in? Wouldn’t that be taking his name in vain and lying? This is what they want to demand that Air Force officers do? Really?

Comments

  1. says

    “Wouldn’t that be taking his name in vain and lying?”

    It’s all part of their cunning plan to have atheist soldiers end up in Hell…if there happens to be one.

  2. eric says

    …introduced H.R. 3416, a bill that would require congressional approval prior to any change to Oaths of Office.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but in addition to the 1st amendment problems, wouldn’t applying this to the USAF also run afoul of the “no ex post facto laws” part of the Constitution?

  3. lldayo says

    I remember how the magnitude of the moment and the magic of the music overpowered any illness or ache

    That’s called ‘adrenaline’.

  4. says

    From my viewpoint here in Wingnut Heaven, California, this sort of thing has been getting worse and worse. What I see (and, naturally, I could be 100% wrong) is that we’ve become a nation of Fear. Greatly enhanced since 9/11, beginning around the time the Moral Majority started to gain political power, the people of the USA have been living in ever-increasing fear – fear of terror, fear of losing their job, fear of losing their house, fear of not being able to afford (insert basic human need here, whether medical care or food or clean water or, etc).

    And for many people – perhaps the majority of people – living in fear will cause them to reach out to any stable thing they can find. Religion, Nationalism, ‘the past’ – people no longer (speaking in very, very broad terms) have the least bit of even imaginary control in their lives. They feel like slaves to (insert powerful entity here – corporations, gov’t, whatever) – so they dig further down, no matter whether it’s true or not – till they find something they feel they can depend on.

    I’m working on an essay on my perception of increased Fear in the broad population, and it’s effects. Perhaps one day it’ll be done – if I don’t end up killing myself working 60+ hr weeks, sleeping 3 hr nights, chasing the american dream, etc etc. Fear will make this country sick – ill.

    It’s already done so.

    Just my 2 cents worth, take it for what it cost ya (basically nothing, which tells ya what my opinion may be worth LoL) :)

    Have a great day!

  5. eric says

    Complete OT, but hey Ed, I’m surprised you haven’t written something about the oral arguments given in Town of Greece vs. Galloway.

    AIUI, its nigh impossible to tell the outcome of a case from what the Judges say in oral arguments. But having said that, it sounded to me like most of the judges – even the conservative ones – were very much aware of the problem of trying to differentiate ceremonial from sectarian prayer.
    My admittedly superficial analysis is that the difference between the conservative wing and the liberal wing is: Scalia et al. thinks the distinction is artificial, stupid and would like to rule that any prayer a local council wants to do should be allowed While the liberals think the distinction is artificial, stupid and would like to rule that little or no real prayer should be allowed.

    I think Laycock did miss one opportunity. Evidently, Alito pushed him to try and come up with a prayer that would be acceptable to everyone (trying to make the point that it is impossible, and therefore acceptability to people of various religions or none is not a standard the court can use to judge a prayer ‘ceremonial’). Laycock couldn’t give him a good answer. But there is one: a moment of silence. Moments of silence are the ‘ceremonial prayer’ that is acceptable to the maximum number of people of all faiths and none. Not everyone, to be sure, but I think it would’ve been a very good answer to Alito’s question, and it would’ve put him on the defensive in that he’d then have to argue why a moment of silence is insufficient to the purpose of ceremonial prayer.

  6. zenlike says

    And seriously, why would they even want an atheist soldier to swear an oath to a god they don’t believe in?

    To remind them that they are second class citizens, and that there is no place for them in the military (and by extension the whole country). But I’m probably answering a rhetorical question.

  7. jnorris says

    Doesn’t the No Religious Test part of the Constitution have a play in all this oath taking? Article VI, paragraph 3.

  8. John Pieret says

    eric @ 2 & 5:

    wouldn’t applying this to the USAF also run afoul of the “no ex post facto laws” part of the Constitution?

    Not unless they intend to punish any cadet who has taken the oath without saying “so help me God.’

    But neither is it an ‘Oath of Office,’ which has a pretty specific meaning. It is an oath to follow the Honor Code not to cheat or tolerate cheaters.

    Re Town of Greece, what worries me is Kagan saying:

    Part of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multi-religious society in a peaceful and harmonious way. And every time the Court gets involved in things like this, it seems to make the problem worse rather than better.

    If the “liberals” (moderates, really) are leary of setting off another culture war firestorm, they may decide to just let the practice go on, maybe with some nod to having “diverse” or “nonsectarian” prayer as lipstick for the pig.

  9. eric says

    John @8 – I agree, that’s probably the way they will try and rule. They’ll try and let as much of it as possible continue while coming up with some rule or method to eliminate the really egregiously sectarian conduct. How successful that will be remains to be seen.
    But I take heart in the fact that even Alito admitted that there is no such thing as a ceremonial prayer that will be acceptable to all the major US religious (and atheist) groups. And it was Roberts who basically told the lawyer for the city that if all he has is a ‘tradition’ defense, that’s a crappy defense. They see the problem the same way we do. Doesn’t mean they’ll reach the conclusion we’d like them to reach, but its a positive step that even the conservatives on the court admit that these prayers are religious and may be objectionable to attending citizens.

  10. cry4turtles says

    The only oath anybody should ever have to take is, “I believe actions speak louder than words. Period.”

  11. Ichthyic says

    Johnson spent nearly 7 years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam

    his entire life is a cry for help.

    It’s too bad all of his peers instead tried to empower his delusions.

  12. iplon says

    It’s really simple.

    They try to make it so atheists can’t join the military and later they can say, “Look, there are fewer atheists in the military, they hate our country!”

    And, when we do point out an atheist in the military, they can say, “He must have lied during his oath then, all atheists are liars!”

    Checkmate atheists!

  13. steve84 says

    It’s the usual “I’m a veteran so everything I say has to be respected and you can’t criticize me” ploy.

  14. naturalcynic says

    @John #8: What happens if the potential cadet doesn’t swear to the Honor Code? If it is mandatory, then it is part of the requirements for office.

  15. John Pieret says

    naturalcynic @ 16:

    Generally an “Oath of Office” is one taken at an installation of a person into a public office. Oaths taken to tell the truth, such as those taken by witnesses at a trial, or to faithfully do something, such as the oath jurors take, are a different animal. Neither oath could probably be required, constitutionally, to be to God.

    I was just pointing out that, as a procedural matter, a law that required “congressional approval prior to any change to Oaths of Office” wouldn’t reach the Honor Code oath.

  16. says

    “One year, a group of cadets in the school that we dubbed the KKKolorado KKKristianist KKKollege of Freedumbness decided to defy our captors’ demand that we hold a church service. They hated that we found unity and strength in one another and not GOD. As armed fundie chaplains surrounded us, a fellow cadet pounced onto the poor excuse for a bed and belted out “Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen and “Tom Traubert’s Blues” by Tom Waite. I remember how the magnitude of the moment and the magic of the music overpowered any illness or ache.”.

    Wow, this is more fun than suicide notes with refrigerator magnets.

  17. robinjohnson says

    And seriously, why would they even want an atheist soldier to swear an oath to a god they don’t believe in?

    For that matter, why would they want a Christian soldier to be forced to do so? If they can choose to include it, they can demonstrate that it actually means something to them.

  18. tommyholland says

    Congressman Johnson: “Belief in God helped me in ‘Nam, so everyone must now swear to God because it’s good for you.”

    Likewise, my mother served lima beans to me once a week growing up, and I am healthy and strong. Therefore everyone is now required to eat lima beans regularly.

    (Or choose whatever vegetable makes you gag.)

  19. caseloweraz says

    Sam Johnson: As armed guards surrounded us, a fellow POW pounced onto the poor excuse for a bed and belted out the national anthem and ‘God Bless America.’

    Kind of like that scene in Casablanca where the patrons sing “La Marseillaise,” drowning out the German contingent.

    It must have been equally inspiring. No; it must have been twice as inspiring, because two songs were sung. But it’s interesting that Johnson doesn’t say he joined in. And I wonder why the notoriously tough prison guards in the “Hanoi Hilton” didn’t interrupt the proceedings. Perhaps Johnson misremembers?

  20. hunter says

    “Johnson spent nearly 7 years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam. . . .”

    All things considered, I’m surprised the didn’t try to give him back sooner.

  21. jasmyn says

    This is very strange to me because the army already has this option. They can either swear or affirm, and any reference to god can be included or omitted. My husband just re-upped. His ceremony was done by an atheist major (and personal friend) and there were no problems. It’s not that big of a deal. The army is still army strong, and the air force will be fine, too.

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