Atheists will no longer have to end the Air Force oath with the words “so help me God,” or face an end to their military careers.
The Air Force announced Wednesday that it had changed its policy to allow individuals swearing the oath to omit “so help me God” in accordance with their beliefs. A Nevada airman, who became an atheist after enlisting, protested after he was told that he would have to swear the entire oath or leave the Air Force.
Military officials changed the policy after the sergeant threatened to sue over the violation of his religious freedom. While it had been possible to omit certain words in the past, the Air Force changed its policy in October 2013 to prohibit any omissions from the oath.
“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said, according to Al Jazeera. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen’s rights are protected.”
The Air Force was the only branch of the armed services that did not allow service members to skip “so help me God.”