The Air Force Academy has decided to make the words "so help me God" at the end of the Cadet Honor Code optional.
The AFA had been deliberating whether to remove the religious reference amid criticism that it violated the U.S. Constitution.
The Academy released the decision--and an explanation--in a statement Friday. It reads:
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" General Johnson said. "This all begins by living honorably. The Honor Code and Honor Oath reinforce this fundamental value."
Organizers with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation requested the change.
They tell 11 News they are not satisfied with the AFA's decision; they want the words completely removed from the oath, which they believe will properly protect those cadets who are uncomfortable with the phrase.
"Optional to us is that the words 'so help me God' are not part of the printed oath, but can be added by those who choose to make their oath to God. Leaving the words there is what they had to begin with," said Chris Rodda, the Senior Research Director with MRFF.
Rodda says that if the words are not removed, MRFF will consider taking legal action.
MRFF is also trying to remove the same phrase from the commissioning oath cadets have to take at graduation.