So help me who?
by: John Tyrrell
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It has been reported that last month a member of the US Air Force was denied reenlistment because he refused to say the words "So help me God" at the conclusion of the oath required to enlist or reenlist.
According to the Huffington Post, a US Air Force Public affairs officer stated that Air Force Instructions were amended in October 2013 to make the words mandatory instead of optional as the were before.
Here's the oath in question:
Oath of Enlistment
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Do you see the problem? In a promise to defend and support the Constitution of the United States, the person taking the oath is explicitly required to break the Constitution - in particular Article VI, paragraph 3 which states in part that:
...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
And is not the mandatory requirement to call upon God a religious test which those who don't believe in God must fail?
By making the words "So help me God" mandatory, the US Air Force is requiring everyone who enlists or reenlists to betray the US Constitution in the very oath by which they swear to support and defend it. And it's irrelevant whether they believe in a deity or not.
Now the words "So help me God" are routinely added to oaths in many countries, whether oaths for office or oaths to be honest in testimony. In most cases around, those required to take an oath are able to make an affirmation (sometimes a solemn affirmation) instead and the oath has the same force.
What does "So help me God" even mean. According to Wikipedia, it is "a request to divine agency to render assistance by being a guarantor of the oath taker's own honesty and integrity."
Right! Anyone who says "so help me God" has God's personal guarantee that they are telling the truth. And we know that because we've all seen God strike down those who lie after saying "so help me God". Sure we have.
Have you ever heard anyone say "so help me God" or something like it such as "as God is my witness" in the course of ordinary conversation to buttress a story they are telling? To me, those words bring up a flashing warning light. Or the bullshit meter gets turned on. In my experience, the words are more likely to be used in support of a tall tale than in support of simple truth.
As far as I'm concerned, the only type of person who should use the words "so help me God" in an oath is the genuinely religious person who feels, for whatever reason, that without appealing to a deity he or she would break the oath, but would feel it mandatory to keep the oath after saying the words.
The religious person who would keep the oath regardless has no need to say the words. In fact , this person would be essentially taking the Lord's name in vain by saying the words.
And the non-religious person should never ever say "so help me God" in an oath, as that would be dishonest.
"So help me God" - a phrase we can do without.
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