Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03) introduced the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act (H.R. 1425). This bill is in response to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2013 decision to make the final clause of the Cadet Honor Oath, which states “so help me God,” optional.
It is a phrase, not a clause. Oops!
Before introducing his legislation, Johnson made the following statement on the House Floor:
“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire.
That is a highly debatable claim.
“In 2013, the U.S. Air Force Academy made the phrase “so help me God” optional in the oath each cadet takes. And why did they do this? Because of one radical atheist group’s demands!
Radical? Probably not, but I’m sure he thinks so. Let’s see what the Constitution has to say on the subject:
Article VI, clause 3
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The Constitution clearly forbids a religious qualification, including in an oath of service. This “one radical atheist group” was defending the Constitution, something that Congressman Sam Johnson swore an oath to do. So why is this guy writing a law with the intention of violating the Constitution?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
And why does he think that defending the Constitution is such a “radical” idea?
“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion – but not freedom from religion. That’s why I am introducing legislation that requires Congressional approval before any change would be made to military oaths.
Freedom of religion includes freedom from the impositions or constraints of someone else’s religion. You cannot have true freedom of religion without freedom from religion.
“The moral foundation of our country is in serious danger if we allow radical groups to dictate whether or not we can freely express our religious beliefs! It’s time to take a stand.”
There are several problems with this statement.
First, “optional” is consistent with “freedom”. “Mandatory” is consistent with “coercion”, AKA lack of freedom. He’s already on the wrong side of freedom.
Secondly, nobody is being kept from saying “so help me God”. There is literally no restriction of religious liberty here.
Thirdly, there is the assumption that morality is only possible through religion. Given the history of organized religion, that is an ignorant assumption. Organized religion has made many contributions to human misery and injustice. The Bible, for example, allows for such things as:
- Animal sacrifice
- Religious executions
- Religious persecution
All are things that we, as a society, reject as immoral.
As for religious liberty and requiring a religious oath, let’s look at Matthew 5:33-37
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
That’s right, requiring a religious oath actually violates religious liberty, as well as the Constitution. I have no doubt that Rep. Johnson (voluntarily) included “So help me God” in his oath of office:
“I, (name of Member), 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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).
I wonder if he understands that he swore a Holy oath to support and defend the Constitution as “the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI, clause 2), that “Biblical Law” was not written under the authority of the Constitution (and is therefore not part of the law of the land), and that “all enemies, foreign and domestic” includes those Christian extremists who undermine the rule of law in order to convert the United States into a theocracy or some other form of religiously regimented nation?
Finally, there is the purpose and nature of an oath. An oath is a formal, public commitment to a principle, a promise, or a course of action. Fulfilling an oath is a matter of honor, so the oath-taker swears by something he/she holds dear. To force an atheist, for example, to “swear to God” makes as much sense as making a Christian swear on the Qur’an or a Muslim swear on the Bible. Rather than enhancing the strength of the oath, it undermines it. It makes a mockery of the process.
- Sam Johnson does not understand the concept of oaths.
- Sam Johnson does not understand the concept of religious freedom.
- Sam Johnson does not understand the Constitution of the United States.
- Sam Johnson is not qualified for the office he holds, and incapable of honoring his oath of office. And that speaks volumes about the people who elected him.
It is probably his own radical religious beliefs that limit his understanding of things outside his political/religious bubble.