It is quite absurd the fuss that is made about swearing to god. An airman who crossed out the phrase “so help me God” prior to signing the oath in re-enlisting in the Air Force was told that he must sign the entire thing or leave the force. This seems to be a violation of Article VI of the US constitution where it says in the third paragraph:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Apparently people could earlier omit the offending phrase for ‘personal reasons’ but that flexibility disappeared in October 2013 and the Air Force says that they have no choice but to obey the law unless Congress changes it.
Oddly enough, the Air Force is the only service that is so rigid about this.
Eugene Volokh says that not only does the statute in question allow for the substitution of an affirmation for an oath, the US Constitution was written to be quite clear that affirmations can be substituted for oaths.
To be sure, these provisions were for the benefit of Quakers and other groups that oppose oaths for religious reasons, not for the benefit of atheists. But they are not limited to such groups; instead, they represent the view that affirmations are equivalent to oaths, and that what may be said with a “So help me God” may be said without.
Thus, even if a statutory scheme expressly required an oath, with no affirmation as an alternative, I think it would be unconstitutional. But here the statute specifically provides for affirmation; at most, it’s ambiguous, in also including “so help me God” as part of the oath.
Usually these kinds of laws are fossils from a bygone age that people have not got around the changing. To actively introduce a religious test for office in 2013 is unusual and I am surprised that no one flagged the problems that would undoubtedly arise as more nonbelievers no longer feel the need to keep their views private.