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Air Force Academy Oath Battle Not Over

One group is saying a comprise at the Air Force Academy isn't enough. Wednesday night, a new billboard was put up, spreading the word that a religious reference in an oath taken by cadets should be dropped.

The Academy already said cadets don't have to say it, it's optional. That decision came two weeks ago.

The billboard placed on the northwest side of Garden of the Gods and Nevada in Colorado Springs was paid for by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

They want the last phrase of the cadet honor oath, “So help me God,” removed.

"I think it should be optional," Springs resident Felicita Woods said.

"Personally I'm not a religious person and so I'm not really offended by it at all," Sean Ferguson added.

Less than two weeks ago, the Air Force Academy made that phrase optional, they said, to respect cadets' freedom of religion. Officials with the foundation said it's not enough.

This billboard features an oath signed at Valley Forge when George Washington was a general without the religious phrase.

"If you take it out completely then that's going to offended the people that do believe," Springs resident Nicole Ferguson said.

"I think it should be left as it is because it gives options and it's fair to all people, whatever your faith or non-faith is," Martin Newcomb added.

The change to make the phrase optional also came after a complaint from the same foundation.

The Academy said cadets are required to take the oath once, when they formally enter the school after boot camp.

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Previous Coverage:

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.


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