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News > Final clause in cadet Honor Oath made optional
Cadets march in the Academy Acceptance Parade at Stillman Parade Field Aug. 6. These cadets took the Honor Oath after the parade to symbolize their formal acceptance into the Cadet Wing. Along with taking the oath upon acceptance, all cadets retake the oath at the begining of every school year.
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Final clause in cadet Honor Oath made optional

Posted 10/25/2013   Updated 11/4/2013 Email story   Print story


by Maj. Brus E. Vidal
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

10/25/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- After reviewing the Cadet Honor Oath, and in the spirit of determining a way ahead that enables all to be true to their beliefs, the Air Force's Academy has decided to make the final clause optional.

"Here at the Academy, we work to build a culture of dignity and respect, and that respect includes the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference -- or not," said Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, Academy Superintendent. "So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the Honor Oath with 'So help me God.'"

"At the Air Force Academy, we produce Lieutenants for our Air Force and leaders for our Nation, so our focus here continues to be on developing leaders of character," Johnson said. "This all begins by living honorably. The Honor Code and Honor Oath reinforce this fundamental value."

The Air Force Academy Honor Code, "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does," was formally adopted by the Academy's first graduating class of 1959. It is the minimum standard of conduct which cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets.

In 1984, the Cadet Wing voted to add an "Honor Oath," for all cadets to take and it is administered to fourth class cadets (freshmen) when they are formally accepted into the Wing at the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training. Cadets retake the oath at the beginning of every school year. The oath consists of a statement of the Honor Code, followed by a resolution for cadets to live honorably and reads: "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."
Retired Air Force brigadier general and now the Academy's Athletic Director, Dr. Hans Mueh was a lieutenant colonel assigned to the Academy's Chemistry Department.

"In 1984, we had a situation in a Physics 411 course that resulted in widespread allegations of cheating," he said. It was so widespread that the superintendent, Lt. Gen. Skip Scott, suspended the code and granted amnesty for a short period of time to allow all cadets to report previous violations of their personal honor.

"This was done to assess the state of the Code in the Wing. As a result of that feedback, the superintendent established an Honor Committee, chaired by Col. Jim Woody, Professor and Head of Management, to change the way we administer the Code."

Mueh was a member of that committee. He said the committee determined some additional clout was needed for this oath, which all cadets take, so the committee determined the phrase "we will not" was necessary to begin the code to drive home the collective responsibility of all cadets to not tolerate lying, cheating or stealing and personally accept the individual mandate to live with honor, character and integrity.

Mueh said that addition led to the line "and furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably. "Then, to add more seriousness to the oath, we decided to mirror the commissioning oath and add the words, 'so help me, God,'" he said.

The existence of the Honor Code presents many privileges and responsibilities to each cadet. A cadet's word is accepted as the truth at all times. Academic scores can truly reflect a cadet's individual effort and knowledge because each cadet is expected to adhere to the Honor Code. This adherence extends to a responsibility to confront other cadets on suspected violations of the code. Such confrontations often result in a simple clarification of a misunderstanding, and each cadet learns the value of clear communications in all situations.

From the moment cadets enter the Academy, they begin an educational process designed to help them understand the responsibilities and expectations associated with the Honor Code. To emphasize the magnitude of leading a life of honor, character and integrity, cadets -- as potential future officers -- receive extensive character and leadership instruction, and those same values are inculcated into all military training and extracurricular activities.

The Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development provides classroom, seminar, workshop and experiential-based learning programs to all cadets, beginning when they enter Basic Cadet Training and this continues each year through their final semester at the Academy.

The Center's programs, when coupled with the Honor Code and Honor System, establish a foundation for the "leaders of character" the Academy aspires to produce.

"Cadets must meet Academy standards -- honor, physical fitness, academics and military aptitude -- in order to be a cadet in good standing," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, Commandant of Cadets. "Holding each cadet to these high standards promotes good order and discipline throughout the institution."

The Honor Code is a vital part of cadets' development as military professionals. It also represents a broader aspect of ethical maturity which will serve them throughout their lives. As the bearers of the public trust, both as cadets and as officers, it is the Honor Code which helps build a personal integrity able to withstand the rigorous demands placed upon them.

11/5/2013 8:11:27 PM ET
While moral values do not change with time moral behavior is indicated with every decision. My class did not have the extra phrases in 1974. Yet I welcomed the 1984 changes that tried to emphasize the importance and seriousness of moral behavior first encoded by God. Thirty years later under the guise of political correctness the USAFA now decides to start down a slippery slope. Making God optional in the Code and society sends a message that in time the importance seriousness and even general moral behavior can become optional. Moral values do not change yet adherence and support for these values have changed over time usually resulting in collapse of families then societies and finally nations. All men and women have to decide to behave morally or risk this cycle. Emphasizing obedience to moral values is becoming extinct in some American families in media and politics for sure in many places of American society and now even the military. I point to one reason e
Michael Maughan, California
11/4/2013 5:09:26 PM ET
Please tell me Judy how people of faith are being shut down and silencedThe option to swear to your god in the oath is still available if you feel the need to do so.Contrary to what some would like to believe there are many Atheists and non-religious people serving honorably in the armed forces. I myself have been enlisted for 11 years. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. I'm a solid NCO and a person of strong moral character. I see a lot of judgment ignorance and close mindedness in the comments above. That is what saddens me. VR
TSgt Scheller, Idaho
11/3/2013 2:21:02 PM ET
Thank you for accommodating those of us who are not religious or don't believe in any god but are dedicated to our country and fellow human beings. I fail to comprehend how it is politically correct to respect all belief systems. What ever happened to our core belief of tolerating other's beliefs
JC, Boston
11/2/2013 10:49:34 PM ET
How can anyone argue this is an attack on God or religion The decision was made to make the phrase So help me God OPTIONAL not prohibited How can anyone object to that As a non-theist Air Force Officer who was sworn to uphold the Constitution while being forced to utter a religious statement at the end of every oath I say it's about time
Rene, Nebraska
10/31/2013 2:24:03 PM ET
Unfortunately we all now live in a crazy world where a minority can undermine the freedoms of others when left unchecked. I do understand the need to carefully navigate the complex and litigious world that we all now find ourselves living in and while I strongly disagree with the current administration's overly progressive nature I am glad to see that our fellow grad Lt. Gen. Johnson did not completely capitulate and roll over on this issue. I am sure that the current administration is pressing hard for her to simply remove part of the oath and stay quiet...from the silent majority...stay strong and keep up the good fight I will be praying for our Academy's leadership team and yes even for Mr. Weinstein himself.
Ken Woods USAFA '94, Jensen Beach FL
10/31/2013 1:06:31 PM ET
As Thomas Jefferson stated--On matters of style swim with the current on matters of principle stand like a rock. It's ironic and disheartening that USAFA has discarded some of the fundamental principles it firmly entrenched in us. David Ortiz Class of 79
David Ortiz, Chandler Arizona
10/31/2013 11:44:27 AM ET
A reasonable accommodation. See - Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address All too will bear in mind this sacred principle that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail that will to be rightful must be reasonable that the minority possess their equal rights which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression. Let us then fellow-citizens unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.
Ed DiBello, Class of '66 ABQ NM
10/30/2013 9:30:45 PM ET
It is thoroughly disgusting to see the Air Force bow to this Political Correct crap that's infiltrating our Armed Forces. It's time our leaders took a stand for America and forget about their future promotions. Muslims are gaining ground every day and our once great nation is caving in to Weinstein and his group. It was God to created everything and it's God who we should give thanks to and it should be said aloud in the Oath.
Stan Lukasiewicz, San Antonio FL
10/30/2013 8:18:07 AM ET
Another victory for Mikey Weinstein. Amazing how the USAF has basically handed over religious policy-making to a civilian anti-religion activist. Basically when Mikey says jump the Air Force says how high It's pathetic. Pathetic and cowardly.
Rick, Iowa City IA
10/29/2013 4:41:02 PM ET
I cannot believe USAFA is giving in to what appears to be political correctness by removing So help me God from the oath. I was involved in the physics scandal of 1984 and not a day goes by that I don't regret it. Partly because of missed opportunities but mainly because of the tarnish I was part of. In that experience I learned not to give in based on what's popular and after all weren't we supposed to learn intestinal fortitude while there if we did not already have it Changing the oath is NOT an example of this philosophy and I find this change disappointing to say the least.
Mike Cornejo, DeLand FL
10/29/2013 10:17:10 AM ET
Because of this politically correct decision it has changed my 12 year old daughter's future greatly.She goes to a Catholic school and will attend a Catholic H.S. but will not be able to reach her goal of attending the United Air Force Academy.In our family GOD is not an option it is a way of life. It's another sad day in American History.
Mrs. Wolf, Illinois
10/28/2013 5:39:47 PM ET
I think this is a terrible decision. America has grown and prospered with a Judeo-Christian heritage. It is sad that our military succumbs to a minority in the name of political correctness.
Brenda, Florida
10/27/2013 9:08:36 AM ET
It seems we the people of the United States are bowing down to the minority in so many issues today. Did the cadets coming into the Academy not know that So Help Me God would be a part of their oath of allegiance. There are so many cases where the Few are allowed to Rule The Majority. When will we the people of the United States say Enough No More. This particular makes me disappointed in our Government. Thank you for reading my comments.Sue Shipman North Charleston SC
Mrs. James Shipman, United States
10/26/2013 8:06:29 PM ET
I'm deeply saddened by this news. How long before our mint's no longer reference the creator who has so richly blessed our country I'm sure that Noah did not worry about the storm on the outside...only the two woodpeckers on the inside....
Patrick Burke, Utah
10/26/2013 6:41:57 PM ET
Hans's comment on why So Help me God was added would make one ponder whether the deletion of that phrase has diminished the seriousness of the oath.It would have helped to have researched the addition of those words in the oath's of officeSo help me God became part of the officer oath in 1862 but the enlisted oath did not add these words until 1962. The Congressional Record provides superb insight into their meaningThe words So help me God are not a part of the obligation assumed upon taking the oath. They constitute rather an assertion of sincerity to undertake the duties of military service in good faith and with the aid of the highest power recognized by the enlistee. It is directed solely to his or her personal conception of the almighty whatever that may be or whatever it may not be. There is no effort to impose on the enlistee any established religious conception or even to require his acknowledgement of any religious conception. . . . For the vast majority of
Dick Coe USAFA '68, St. George Utah
10/26/2013 1:40:41 PM ET
UPDATE Regarding your news report that the Air Force Academy is being pressed to remove so help me God from its Cadet Honor Oath the real story is that those words have ALREADY been removed from the Cadet and Officer oaths though remaining in the Naval and Military Academy cadet handbooks. As first reported last May by Mark Alexander in DoD's Frontal Assault on Faith the Cadet Contrails handbook contained the words so help me God until 2011. His inquiries to determine who altered the oath and why were rebuffed by the AFA PAO. Read Alexander's Brief Update here httppatriotpost.usarticles21200Click to View Cadet Handbook -- httpassets.patriotpost.usimages2013-10-25-54811def.jpg
Michael Coleman, Washington DC
10/26/2013 11:14:18 AM ET
Whenever Israel compromised with society and left God they suffered greatly. Whenever they stayed with God they were greatly blessed. I fear for our country now I fear for the Academy.
Terry Gruters, Sarasota Florida
10/26/2013 8:48:32 AM ET
Unfortunately some civilians are confused and think this applies to oath of office. I was confronted yesterday outside the Marriott C' Spgs by a civilian who was under that impression. As a '63 grad who did not take an oath regarding the honor code I was surprised the practice was started in 1984. In my mind I always felt the Honor Code was an agreement between cadets of all classes and the Academy staff and applied to our actions everywhere. We trusted each other and learned we could rely on each other. I never considered its religious aspects. As a Catholic I still respect others' moral foundations enough to tolerate their preferences on the use of the word God.
Jack McTasney '63, Carmichael CA
10/26/2013 7:55:03 AM ET
This is a bunch of bull-Why does our country give in to one jerk because they don't like it. What ever happened to if you don't like it don't join inLike it or stay the hell outI am one and don't like you changing it for them what about my feelings NOW WHAT
Bary Ziegler, Birdsboro Pa
10/26/2013 12:10:35 AM ET
The class of 1968 of which I an a member learned lived by and respected the honor code. Iitmhas guided me through life. I lost my element leader in the 1965 scandal and classmates in the 1967 scandal. It's a disgrace to bow to politicalcorrectness and take God out of the equation even though He guides and strengthens cadets and the Academy's leadership day by day.
John Van de Kamp, Annapolis Maryland
10/25/2013 8:07:47 PM ET
So Help me GOD. If the Academy should deny a sworn oath that includes GOD. Shame on you. The God would apply to Christians Jews Muslims and most ALL other religions on earth. Yet here we are again on a platform to appease one that isn't in the service has NEVER been in the service and has never called on GOD which so many of our brethren have. Personally I don't want an officer and a gentleman in the Air Force that does NOT believe in GOD. God Bless you all. Good night.
LTC Charles Tuten, Florida
10/25/2013 7:00:06 PM ET
I was greatly saddened to hear our US Air Force Academy gave in to changing their long standing oath today.On the other hand I am trying to grasp even little victories in noting the change is 'optional' and at least at this point not completely thrown out. Would that the example we give those coming behind us we could yet find those willing and able to stand committed to truth and honor in spite of the arrogant bravado of being politically correct.
Elizabeth Hess, Scott City Kansas
10/25/2013 5:32:31 PM ET
A reasonable accomodation while keeping the intent of the Honor Oath.
Vic Andrews, United States
10/25/2013 4:50:51 PM ET
Great. This will just embolden MRFF while providing more press for its attention-starved opportunistic founderleaderlawyermouthpiece. I wonder what his next target will be...
JRCGainesville, Florida
10/25/2013 3:53:18 PM ET
Thank you for the explanation. You have been very fourth right in it. I agree with your decision and commend you . I am very happy to hear that you are allowing the cadets to say so help me God if they choose.
tony , Arizona
10/25/2013 3:02:15 PM ET
Good for you USAFA administration Stand firm. This is a compromise that allows the individual cadets to choose. It should be enough to please any sensible person. Go Air Force
Kathy, WA
10/25/2013 2:21:07 PM ET
Once again the disgruntled minority has gotten their way and removed God again. There was nothing wrong or unconstitutional with the Academy's oath. This is a bandaid on a bigger problem. How tragic that in our nation the people of faith are being shut down and silenced. This isn't what our founding fathers intended and it isn't what we ordinary citizens want either. God have mercy on us all.
Judy Grant, Brawley CA
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