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Nov 8, 2013 11:19 PM by Tony Spehar

Fight over keeping 'so help me God' in Air Force Academy honor oath continues

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is launching a new campaign to eliminate the words "so help me God," from the cadet honor oath at the Air Force Academy.

On Wednesday the MRFF installed a new billboard at the intersection of North Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road, it shows a picture of an oath signed by George Washington and reads "this oath was good enough for George Washington why not the Air Force Academy?"

"The actual oath of military office which then General George Washington signed at Valley Forge in 1778 did not include the words 'so help me God,'" explained MRFF President Mikey Weinstein.

Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson recently made the phrase "so help me God" optional in response to a complaint from the MRFF. But, Weinstein said that decision didn't go far enough.

"By having them there that exacts and unconstitutional toll on religious objectors," he claimed.

Weinstein alleges that the Air Force Academy is overwhelmingly fundamentalist Christian and that the oath is unconstitutional because of the religious language and cadets are required to take it. Josh Dunn, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at UCCS, said he believes that's not the case.

"Very often you hear people say the Constitution requires separation of church and state, it requires no such thing," Dunn said. "It can't be reasonably inferred from the text, instead the Supreme Court wrote the separation of church and state into the Constitution."

Dunn explained that it's a confusing issue and courts often make contradictory rulings on issues of requiring people to reference religion in oaths.

"You have to consider how does all this relate to the military and then you also have to throw in other constitutional provisions like free speech," he described.

The Air Force Academy is standing by keeping "so help me God," in the oath and making it optional for cadets to add the phrase.

"The decision has been made by General Johnson, it's optional," an Air Force Academy spokesperson told News 5 when asked for comment on the new billboard.

Weinstein said his group is conferring with their lawyers and hundreds of clients at the Air Force Academy on whether or not to file a federal lawsuit over the oath.

"This is a declaration of war on the Constitution and we will meet that declaration, we will see her (Lt. Gen. Johnson) on the battlefields of the federal court system if necessary," Weinstein said.

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