Air cadets rewrite their oath to remove God from pledge


One of the UK’s largest and most respected youth organisations will no longer compel its new members to take a religious oath.

In a move that delighted the British Humanist Association (BHA), the Air Cadet Organisation, which was formed in 1938 and played a key role in the second world war, is to offer future cadets the option of a non-religious oath. The decision follows a campaign by the BHA and the United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association (UKAFHA), after they had argued that the organisation needed to recognise that many of its recruits were non-believers.

The development is likely to be studied closely by other youth organisations. Both the Scout Association and Girlguiding UK are consulting on changing their pledges so that they are inclusive of young people without a specific faith.

With almost 41,000 members, aged from 13 to 20, in more than 1,000 squadrons across the UK, the Air Cadets describes itself as the world’s largest youth air-training organisation. Around 40% of RAF officers and 50% of aircrew are former cadets. At present cadets can only make the religious promise, usually at a ceremony presided over by their unit’s padre or commanding officer. The vow says cadets will strive “to be a good citizen and to do my duty to God and the Queen, my country and my flag”. Humanist groups successfully argued that the corps must provide a non-religious oath or it would fall foul of European legislation and the Ministry of Defence’s policy on equality and diversity.

“The Air Training Corps is a significant youth organisation,” said David Brittain, general secretary of UKAFHA. “According to repeated surveys, 65% or more of teenagers state they are not religious, and by failing to provide a non-religious oath the organisation has excluded a significant number of young people of good conscience who do not believe in any god and are not willing to lie by saying words they don’t believe.”

Written By: Jamie Doward and Ella Fraser-Thoms
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  1. “Over two-thirds of young people have a non-religious identity and that proportion is growing all the time,”

    Little by little, reason, logic and commonsense are making inroads. Long may it continue.

  2. I would have refused to make a pledge to god anyway; actually, I would refuse to make a pledge to the Queen as well. I wonder if Anti Royals can be in the Air Force? Is she not head of the church?

  3. In reply to #2 by aquilacane:

    I would have refused to make a pledge to god anyway; actually, I would refuse to make a pledge to the Queen as well. I wonder if Anti Royals can be in the Air Force? Is she not head of the church?

    All members of the British armed forces, less the Royal Navy and Royal Marines officers are required to swear allegiance to the head of state(The Queen).

    Either an oath of allegiance or an affirmation to the Queen is required. Not because of the religious angle, you are right, she is the head of the state church, but because she is head of state.

    Sinn Fein members of parliament are barred from taking their seats and collecting a salary because of their refusal.

    Ironically, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are exempt taking said oath, as are members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Whereas it is a legal requirement for the rest of the UK, Scottish Assembly and Welsh Assembly…I’m not sure that is at all fair given the number of republicans in both assemblies. All a bit archaic I suppose, I’m sure it’s time to sort something else out that is less controversial.

  4. “Should we change the words of the national anthem because they include ‘God save our gracious Queen’? What are people threatened by?”

    People are threatened by 2000 years of oppression, violence, lies and child abuse from theocrats demanding both privilege to continue this bullying and respect for their belief they are guided to these heinous acts by an invisible super-thing.
    In short, we feel a threat to our freedom to truly find the world wonderful, to understand our universe to the level real discovery has currently brought us and to be able to make rational, considered moral judgement based on what seems right and good rather than what we are being told must be our thoughts lest we be sent to eternal fires.
    As for the anthem, yes we should change it, as we should change the notion of a head of state supporting irrational belief.

  5. What a mixed bag it is viewing this from the US. On the one hand, the US military oath is to defend and protect the US Constitution. On the other, the US Air Force Academy has acquired a reputation as a hotbed of christian fundamentalism. On the one hand, military oaths in the UK are to the Queen, who is both a political and religious figure. On the other, there can be no state church in the US, but the various religious groups — notably baptists, catholics and mormons — have done their best to make themselves local de facto state religions where they predominate.

  6. In the Royal Air Force and I assume it would be the same for the Army, the process is called “attestation” if you are CofE you could of course “Swear by Almighty God” or “solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm” so the Oath would be:

    “I, [Airmans name], solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the Air Officers and officers set over me.”

    Attestation is legally binding, technically, it is to the Crown and not the State that the armed forces owe fidelity this might seem to many a quibble, but the distinction is not unimportant, This is why for instance only the Crown can declare a state of War, attestation is legally binding only during ones period of regular, reserve or territorial service, it effectively ends on discharge.

    I have no idea, why this post does not format correctly, or why the preview does and the post does not?

  7. In reply to #9 by ev-love:

    In my day we didn’t salute without headdress. Just saying……


    Still the case… no fault of the youngsters though, thats an instructor issue I suspect, also as they are in order the salute should have been given by the senior rank present… at least in my day.

    Which Probably makes me a grumpy old B******d

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