Questions and Answers re: Reenlistment Oath, “So Help Me God”

Published On: October 31, 2012|Categories: MRFF's Inbox|0 Comments|


I just signed the papers today to get reenlisted, and noticed a funny thing. On the written oath I’m required to sign, all oaths end in “so help me God.” When I pointed this out to the Retention NCO he said it was tradition and he couldn’t remove it from the official paperwork, but I didn’t have to say it for the ceremony. Even so, it seems to me that requiring a Soldier to sign such a document may be unconstitutional. Is there anything that can be done about this?


(name, rank, and service branch withheld)

(Name withheld),

In my own enlistment and reenlistment documents, I crossed out that line and initialed the change. This is a legal modification that you can do if you wish. No one should object, but if they do simply inform them that it is your legal right. If they persist, then we can escalate the matter.

He’s right: you don’t have to say “So help me god” for the ceremony. It’s up to you, but the regulation also states that if you leave out the god part, you should say “affirm” instead of “swear.” (Swearing is defined as a religious term (swearing “to god”) and affirming is secular in meaning.)

I agree that having the religious oath ought to be ruled unconstitutional, but as long as they’re leaving a non-religious option we’re very unlikely to win a legal challenge.


Dustin Chalker

MRFF Non-Religious Affairs Advisor

Army Regulation 601-210, paragraph 6-18 A commissioned officer of any Service will administer the Oath of Enlistment in DD Form 4 orally, in English, to each applicant. Make a suitable arrangement to ensure that the oath is administered in a dignified manner and in proper surroundings. Display the U.S. flag prominently near the officer giving the oath. The words “So help me God” may be omitted for persons who desire to affirm rather than to swear to the oath.

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