First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected story involving the U.S. Air Force and the way it’s treating one of their own airmen – who happens to be an atheist (thanks to reader D.R. for the heads-up).
An atheist member of the U.S. Air Force has been told he must swear “so help me God” as part of his military oath or else he will be forced to leave the service, the Air Force Times reports. The airman, who has not been identified by name, is currently serving in the Air Force at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada until the end of his current term of service in November, but was denied reenlistment last month when he refused to sign a sworn oath that included the religious phrase.
Under Department Guidelines, there’s a re-enlistment form with a specific written oath. It requires American servicemen and women to, among other things, “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”; “bear true faith and allegiance to the same”; and “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” It concludes, “So help me God.”
In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit those final four words. The Air Force, however, has a different “interpretation” of Pentagon regulations, and has told the unnamed airman that he will be excluded from military service, regardless of his qualifications, unless he swears an oath to God.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Constitution – the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms – says quite explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” To date, the Air Force has found this unpersuasive.
Some notable conservative voices have rushed into the debate to endorse the Air Force’s policy. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer said, “There is no place in the United States military for those who do not believe in the Creator.” He added, “A man who doesn’t believe in the Creator … most certainly should not wear the uniform.”
One wonders what Fischer might have said to Pat Tillman.
The airman in question is considering a legal challenge to the policy blocking his military service. The Air Force, which has been embroiled in religious controversy before, has asked the Pentagon’s general counsel for an official review.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Vice President Biden will be in Iowa this week, which raises speculation about his possible presidential ambitions, but let’s not brush past the ostensible purpose of the visit: “Biden will speak in Des Moines at a kick-off event for the Nuns on the Bus, in which progressive Catholic nuns tour the country promoting social justice, according to The Des Moines Register.”
* Unfortunate allegations out of South Carolina: “Reginald Wayne Miller, the president of Cathedral Bible College, was arrested Thursday on accusations that he forces foreign students at his school to work long hours for low wages and then threatens to revoke their student visas if they complain or fail to comply with his demands.”
* And TV preacher Pat Robertson told viewers this week, “What is the new beatitude? Blessed are the fully armed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I’m no expert, but I seem to remember Matthew 5:9 a little differently.