The Air Force Academy has declared the phrase "so help me God" at the end of the Air Force cadet honor code 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, in an online statement. "So, in the spirit of respect, cadets may or may not choose to finish the Honor Oath with 'So help me God.'"

The academy formally adopted the honor code, "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does," in 1959. "It is the minimum standard of conduct which cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets," she said.

But in 1984 after a cheating scandal, cadets voted to add an "Honor Oath," for all cadets to take at the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training. The oath consists of a statement of the Honor Code, followed by a resolution for cadets to live honorably and it reads: "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God."

But that last phrase, highlighted by reporting Monday in the Colorado Springs Independent, added to the rising incidence of religious hazing and fundamentalist sentiment at the Academy led the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to lodge a complaint about the use of the oath.