Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) Introduces Bill Forcing Air Force Academy Cadets to Recite Oath to ‘God’

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) (center), with USAFA officers and cadet. (Photo: Rep. Sam Johnson)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) (center), with USAFA officers and cadet. (Photo: Rep. Sam Johnson)

A Republican US congressman has introduced a bill that would force cadets at the United States Air Force Academy to acknowledge and swear an oath to the Abrahamic deity figure ‘God.’

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), a former Air Force colonel, has introduced HR 1425, the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, which he claims is meant to protect the religious liberty of American troops.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” Johnson said in a statement posted on his website. The statement continued:

In 2013, the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) made the phrase ‘so help me God’ optional in the oath each cadet takes. And why did they do this? Because of one radical atheist group’s demands! Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion—but not freedom from religion. That’s why I am introducing legislation that requires Congressional approval before any change would be made to military oaths.

Without an act of Congress, HR 1425 would force USAFA cadets to say the words “so help me God” during the Honor Oath, which is recited at the start of every academic year: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.”

“The moral foundation of our country is in serious danger if we allow radical groups to dictate whether or not we can freely express our religious beliefs! It’s time to take a stand,” asserted Johnson.

Three additional Republican congressmen have signed on to HR 1425 as co-sponsors; Reps. Pete Osborn (TX), Pete Sessions (TX) and Doug Lamborn, who represents the Colorado district housing USAFA.

The Christianization of the American military, especially in the wake of the September 11, 2001 Islamist terror attacks on the United States, has been especially acute at USAFA. Christian indoctrination, religious intolerance and bullying, and virulent anti-Semitism have all plagued the prestigious institution during the post-9/11 era.

Critics have complained about National Day of Prayer services being exclusively Christian, about cadets being forced to attend an assembly at which Christian fundamentalists asserted that the only way to stop terrorism was to “kill Islam,” and about how ‘Lord’s Army’ member Lt. Clebe McClary, a Marine who said that USMC will always stand for “US Marines for Christ,” wasinvited to speak at the academy.

Rep. Johnson has drawn sharp criticism, including from military veterans, over HR 1425. The comment section of his website statement has been accumulating dozens of mostly negative remarks.

“I’ve taken the Oath 4 times. I’ve never mentioned any God, because I’m an atheist who is a patriot,” wrote Mike Pekarek. “This fight you cannot be allowed to win, both for my sake and for my Christian brothers in arms. America cannot have a religious armed forces.”

“Sam Johnson, you are a congressman who is supposed to abide by the Constitution yet you are violating the first sentence of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,'” wrote Lance Feegan of Spring, Texas, who described himself as “one pissed-off Marine.”

“It is clear you are intentionally violating the law and if you continue should be impeached,” added Feegan.

“Unbelievable! I am a graduate of USAFA and to see what has become of that once great institution because of religious zealotry is sad,” wrote Dave Chapman of Salt Lake City, Utah.

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  1. labman57March 24, 2015 at 6:35 amReply

    Another day, another Republican theocrat crawls out from under a rock in search of the media spotlight.

  2. Dan LennonMarch 28, 2015 at 4:22 pmReply

    Fundamentalist Christians make the mistake of thinking that ideas are what matter. What matters more is how we arrive at ideas. Ideas based on faith must either be accepted or rejected; the allow no room for discussion, compromise, or changing one’s mind. It is a formula for suppressing innovative thought, fostering permanent antagonisms, and producing only winners and losers. That’s what we had for centuries before the Enlightenment and why this period was known as the Dark Ages.
    Secularism is not a religion because it does not demand unconditional acceptance of immutable beliefs; yet it does make two important demands on believers that are inconsistent with a religious world view. First, it requires that they accept that the purpose of a secular society is not obedience to God but the interests of man; and second, it requires that decisions affecting society be based on reason and evidence, not on faith. Unlike the demands of faith, believers need not surrender their existing beliefs; but they do need put them aside when pursuing policies that affect society at large, such as education, reproductive rights, and the like.  They are entitled to their beliefs but these beliefs should have no bearing on policy making.

    These demands not only insure that everyone regardless of belief has the same opportunity to influence policy (which incidentally insures a more inclusive and moral society); but it also produces better results. This is why there is an inherent rift between secular society and some religions – most notably those with a proselytizing agenda.

    Fundamentalists like Sam Johnson feel that unless the government endorses their efforts, something is wrong. They wrongly believe that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion; as though religious belief is a requirement for citizenship. They do not understand that if they succeed in their agenda they will undermine the freedoms that enable them to practice their religion, as well as the free thinking that produced our modern technological world.

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