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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MRFF Contact: Bekki Miller
Tel. (337) 356-8696
bekki.miller@militaryreligiousfreedom.org

Military Religious Freedom Foundation Posts Billboard Slamming U.S. Air Force
Academy Religious Oath

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    (COLORADO SPRINGS) On Wednesday, November 6, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) made a bold gesture in its fight to keep church and state separate in the United States military. Protesting the continued usage of unconstitutional religious tests at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), MRFF posted a billboard at the northwest corner of North Nevada Ave. and Garden of the Gods Road (facing east), one of the busiest thoroughfares in Colorado Springs, CO.

    MRFF’s latest salvo comes less than a month after USAFA admitted that its honor oath has contained the phrase "So help me God" since 1984. Under fierce MRFF pressure last month, the Academy finally relented and made the unconstitutional religious phrase "optional." MRFF currently has 435 cadets, staff and clients at USAFA, 372 of whom self-identify as practicing Christians, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.

    Former White House counsel to the Reagan administration, USAFA Honor Graduate, and MRFF Founder and President Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein disagrees with the change. Weinstein maintains that those cadets who opt out of swearing the oath would "stick out like a tarantula on a wedding cake" if the offending words remain intact in the Honor Oath, as is presently the case. Neither West Point nor Annapolis (both USAFA's sister service academies), use those words in their respective Honor Codes or Oaths.

    MRFF’s billboard, which reads "This oath was good enough for George Washington – Why not the Air Force Academy?" contains a photograph of an oath signed in 1778 at Valley Forge by President (then-General) George Washington, which makes no religious reference whatsoever.

    The foundation has clashed with the USAFA administration numerous times in the past decade due to the strong presence of, and unbridled support for, fundamentalist evangelical Christianity at the Academy.

    A long series of previous religious liberty violations at USAFA, also exposed by MRFF, have led to a several specious investigations by the U.S. Air Force and continued efforts of dubious intentions to establish a so-called "religious sensitivity training" regimen. As recently as mid-October, 2013, Mr. Weinstein met personally with Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson to inform her of several very recent, egregious, unconstitutional religious civil rights violations affecting cadets, staff and faculty at USAFA.

    After being initially notified by investigative reporter Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent of a photograph containing the Honor Oath wording, Weinstein contacted the vice superintendent at USAFA. A mere 68 minutes later, Johnson herself contacted Weinstein, pledging to swiftly address this serious issue and notifying him that a framed poster of the Honor Oath with the objectionable words "So help me God" had been immediately taken down.

    According to Chris Rodda, MRFF Senior Research Director, the civil rights foundation posted the billboard "as a reminder of the true history of military oaths." This history thoroughly debunks the revisionist history espoused by Christian fundamentalist organizations and individuals who erroneously claim that the phrase "So Help Me God" was commonly used by America’s Founding Fathers.
      
    Weinstein is currently caucusing with MRFF legal counsel and potential USAFA plaintiffs about a follow-on Federal lawsuit against the Academy if the four words, "So help me God," are not removed from the oath.

    Speaking from his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Weinstein explained, "We have absolutely NO objection if anyone ever wished to say those words after reciting the USAFA Honor Oath, and we encourage them to do so if they are so inspired. Our sole objection is that those words remain an integral part of the Honor Oath, therefore making it all too clear to those taking the Oath what the ‘approved USAFA solution’ is to completing the Oath." 

    MRFF, a foundation that has been the voice of the voiceless in regards to religious civil liberty violations within the U.S. Military, has a growing client base of over 35,000 servicemembers, veterans, National Guard, reservist, and civilian armed forces personnel throughout the major service branches. The foundation was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a feat accomplished for the sixth time over the course of five consecutive years. In December 2012, Mikey Weinstein was named "one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense" by Defense News, a Gannett publication that represents "the world’s biggest military newsroom."


MRFF FEATURED IN
AIR FORCE TIMES

Billboard urges academy
to drop 'God' language 

MRFF continues fight to have religious test
barred from U.S. Air Force Academy oath

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Selected Article Excerpts:

  • A new billboard near the Air Force Academy is urging the academy to drop the words "so help me God" completely from its honor oath.

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that advocates for the separation of church and state in the military, had the billboard erected Nov. 6 at the corner of North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road in Colorado Springs, a few miles from the academy.

    The billboard features an image of the officer’s oath signed by George Washington at Valley Forge in 1778, in which he pledges his loyalty to the United States against King George III, but does not contain an oath to a deity. The billboard reads, "This oath was good enough for George Washington. Why not the Air Force Academy?"

  • After MRFF President Mikey Weinstein in October objected to the inclusion of the phrase "so help me God" in the academy’s honor oath, the academy decided to make reciting that part optional. But Weinstein said that by not completely excising the clause, the oath still violates the Constitution’s guarantee that no one shall be subjected to a religious test to hold a public office.

  • Weinstein had harsh words for Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson’s decision not to completely remove the clause.

    "She is the fourth superintendent we’ve met with [since MRFF was founded in 2004], and she seems to be the worst of all" in terms of her willingness to engage MRFF on their concerns, Weinstein said.

    Weinstein said he would not object to cadets choosing on their own to add "so help me God" to the honor oath. But making it optional is not good enough, he said, because airmen who chose not to say it would feel pressure to do so." The MRFF also sent Johnson a letter Nov. 5 countering a letter the American Center for Law and Justice sent to the academy Oct. 24 that argued Washington added the phrase to the oath of office he took when he was sworn in as president.

    The MRFF letter, co-signed by Weinstein and senior research director Chris Rodda, argues that is a myth and the words are not included in the official oath as written in the Constitution, and urges the academy to drop the phrase entirely.

Click to read this article at
Air Force Times


MRFF FEATURED IN
COLORADO SPRINGS
INDEPENDENT

George Washington didn't say it

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Selected Article Excerpt:

    A new billboard in town already is stirring angst over the U.S. Air Force Academy's use of "so help me God" as part of its honor oath.

    The Military Religious Freedom Foundation posted a billboard at North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road saying President George Washington's oath of office didn't contain those words, so why should the academy's oath?

    We reported on this a couple weeks ago, but the subject is still getting attention. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 academy grad, says his group already has received a dozen hate calls about the billboard.

    The billboard stands facing east so that motorists westbound on Austin Bluffs Parkway, which becomes Garden of Gods Road, get a full view of it.

Click to read this article at
Colorado Springs Independent


MRFF FEATURED BY
HUFFINGTON POST

The Lies Used by Jay Sekulow to Defend an Oath Against Lying: An Open Letter to the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy

By Chris Rodda, MRFF Senior Research Director

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Selected Article Excerpt:

    Last month, to issues regarding cadets at the Air Force Academy being forced to say "so help me God" when taking oaths came up.

    The first, which got little media attention, was that cadets were sent an email telling them that if they did not say these words their commissioning oath would not be legal, an obvious and blatant violation of the "no religious test" clause found in Article 6 of the Constitution.

    The second, which has gotten and continues to get an abundance of attention, is the cadet Honor Oath -- the oath where cadets vow not to lie, steal, or cheat. This oath began in 1959 as the Academy's Honor Code, and at that time simply said, "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does." In 1984, the Honor Code was turned into an oath by adding the line "Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorable, so help me God."

    Optionally adding the words "so help me God" is, of course, anyone's right. These words, however, should not be a part of the official oath, where they inevitably lead to situations in which cadets are forced or coerced to say them. Therefore, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has demanded that the words be removed. This, of course, has cause a media firestorm, and even proposed legislation to prevent the oath from being changed.

    The defenders of "so help me God" are claiming that things like this were the intent of the founders and have deep historical roots, and, as expected are using quite a few lies about American history to support this claim -- ironically lying to defend an oath in which cadets swear not to ... um ... lie.

    One of these "so help me God" defenders is Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who, on October 24, wrote a letter to Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson -- a letter full of lies about American history.

    MRFF has also written a letter to Lt. Gen. Johnson... (continued, click below to read more)

Click to read at Huffington Post


Nightline logo
MRFF's Inbox

We receive an enormous amount of emails at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, both from our supporters and detractors. "MRFF's Inbox" allows us to share this correspondence with you:

Input from a grad, re: honor oath

Good Day, General Johnson –

I am a USAFA graduate, Class of ’85. I’m writing to share my thoughts regarding the debate surrounding the honor oath. But before I do that, I want to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Superintendent. From everything I have heard and read about you, I believe that you will be a fantastic leader of our beloved institution, and I wish you well in your efforts. I’ve no doubt that the job will be as challenging, and hopefully as rewarding, as any that you’ve had in your career. I wish you all the best.

Regarding the honor oath and the inclusion of the phrase “so help me God” – I will admit right up front that my opinion is strictly that of a layman. I’m not an attorney and certainly not a Constitutional scholar. So the position at which I’ve arrived is based simply on common sense and a plain understanding of the situation. I should also mention that I am an active and committed Christian.

My position is simple – I don’t believe that the phrase “so help me God” belongs in the honor oath (or in any military oath). I absolutely appreciate and agree with the sentiment of the phrase, given my own religious beliefs. At the same time, I also understand and appreciate that not every individual believes in God as I do, or even believes in God at all, nor are they required to in order to be a contributing and valuable member of our military. As well, from what I have learned through my own reading and research in recent weeks, it seems to me that the language and intent of the Constitution is very clear in this area – neutrality in the area of religious beliefs (or non-belief) certainly seems to have been the aim of our founders.

I would further suggest that to leave the phrase in place within the honor oath, but ‘allow’ individuals not to say it, is not an ideal solution. My sense is that to have the words present, even if instruction is given that it is ‘optional’ to say them, still seems to be an endorsement of sorts and leaves a strong impression that saying them is preferred. To me, it would be more appropriate not to have the words present at all, and those who wish to say them can voice them individually. If the honor oath is being committed in writing, an individual could write in those words at the end of the oath if they desired.

As I said, I am a man of faith, committed to love and service to God. But I have many friends, active military, retired military and civilian, who differ with me on religious matters. While I think it would be great if everyone believed as I do, I think it’s even more wonderful that we live in a country that allows for a great diversity of beliefs and even non-belief. Within our military, where individuals have already given up so much of their personal freedom in order to serve a higher cause, we must always be mindful that the cause is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and not to promote any particular religious conviction.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

Best Regards,

(name withheld)
USAFA ‘85

Read MRFF's Inbox for more recent
hatemail, responses, and supporter messages


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THE CONSTITUTIONALLY-ASSURED
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

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