Tensions were high Wednesday when Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed the atheist leader of an organization that wants the phrase "so help me God" removed from the oath taken by U.S. Air Force cadets.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), led by Founder and President Mikey Weinstein, complained about the oath to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado. The oath currently reads: "We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God."
Weinstein began his discussion with Kelly by saying he was glad to visit "Fox world" for the interview. He claims the mention of God in the Air Force oath violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as well as the so-called No Religious Test Clause, which says "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Kelly pressed Weinstein, asking why "so help me God" should be removed when individuals can just opt out of saying it. "Well, it's like saying why don't you just opt out of not robbing a bank," said Weinstein. "Because robbing a bank violates the law."
He gave a brief history of military oaths before Kelly chimed in while he was still speaking to point out that U.S. presidents and vice presidents all take an oath before entering office.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" interrupted Weinstein.
"Hey, I'm just asking the question," she replied. "Mikey, chill. Chill. It's OK, I'm just asking the question."
Weinstein then pointed out that John Quincy Adams, who he described as a "very devout Christian," took the oath of office by placing his right hand not on a Bible but on a book of law.
He then suggested that "so help me God" should be removed from the Air Force oath, though those who wish to say the phrase could continue to do so. He also said the current oath "noxiously violated" the constitution, eliciting laughter from Kelly.
"Thanks for coming here into 'Fox world,'" she said with a sarcastic tone toward the end of the interview.
"It's a great world," he said before being cut off. "Up is down, down is up."
USAFA's Honor Review Committee discussed the contents of the oath during a meeting on Oct. 22, academy spokesperson Maj. Brus Vidal told the Air Force Times. The committee did not decide, however, if changes should be made.
"They considered a range of options and some of those options will be presented to academy leaders and, ultimately, the academy Superintendent [Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson] for a decision," Vidal told the Times. "We value an inclusive environment that promotes dignity and respect for all."
Jay Sekelow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, told Fox News that Weinstein's assertion that the oath is illegal under the Establishment Clause is wrong.
"Don't be bullied by my friend Mikey Weinstein," Sekulow told the station. "We're friends. We disagree vehemently on this issue, but the fact of the matter is you cannot say that there's a serious Establishment Clause violation by the phrase 'so help me God' where the president of the United States would be violating it when they take the oath of office."