AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force Academy may drop a religious reference from an oath cadets take to swear allegiance to the school's honor code after a religious freedom group said it's a litmus test for honesty.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation protested the “so help me God” phrase that was added to the end of an oath that has cadets swearing they won't lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.
The religious freedom foundation says tying the honor code to a religious test violates the U.S. Constitution.
“To tie the honor code to a religious test violates the no-establishment clause of the Constitution,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder of the foundation and a frequent academy critic.
The academy says it is considering several options, including dumping the entire honor oath. Another possibility is to make the ecclesiastical reference optional, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Thursday.
“We need to be respectful of all people of faith and all people of no faith,” said academy spokesman David Cannon. “Our goal is to do the right thing for the Air Force Academy.”
The oath to obey the honor code came into use at the academy after 19 seniors were disciplined for cheating on a physics exam in 1984. The honor code was adopted by cadets in 1956, a year after the first class entered the academy.
Violations of the code are policed by a cadet honor board and expulsion is the presumed punishment, though violators can be placed on stringent probation.
The fate of the honor oath is in the hands of Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, who is expected to rule soon on the request.
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