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

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