Back in 2019, during the dark days of the Trump presidency, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) had a major victory in getting the Department of Defense (DoD) to follow its own regulations. MRFF had gotten many complaints from military members about a Christian jewelry company that was making dog tags with a Bible verse on one side and the official military branch emblems on the other side. Knowing that DoD regulations strictly prohibit the use of the official trademarked military branch emblems on products that promote religion, MRFF looked into the complaints.
MRFF was well acquainted with the DoD’s trademark and licensing regulations from a previous case from 2012 in which the official military branch emblems were being used by Holman Bible Publishers on its military Bibles. MRFF was victorious in that case as well, with the DoD agreeing that the use of its official emblems on Bibles clearly violated DoD Instruction 5535.12, “DoD Branding and Trademark Licensing Program Implementation,” Section 2.d. of which states (emphasis added):
Shields of Strength, the Christian jewelry company that produces the Bible verse dog tags with official DoD emblems on them, is refusing to comply with the DoD’s decision that it can’t use the official DoD branch emblems on its Bible verse products.
“In accordance with subpart 2635.702 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (Reference (i)), DoD marks may not be licensed for use in a manner that creates a perception of DoD endorsement of any non-federal entity or its products and services. DoD marks may not be licensed for any purpose intended to promote ideological movements, sociopolitical change, religious beliefs (including non-belief), specific interpretations of morality, or legislative/statutory change….”
Holman Bible Publishers was told that it could no longer use official trademarked DoD emblems on the covers of its Bibles, and the company complied, changing the covers of its military Bibles to replace the official DoD branch emblems with generic graphics of their own design.
Unlike Holman Bible Publishers, however, Shields of Strength, the Christian jewelry company that produces the Bible verse dog tags with official DoD emblems on them, is refusing to comply with the DoD’s decision that it can’t use the official DoD branch emblems on its Bible verse products. Represented by the fundamentalist Christian legal organization First Liberty Institute, Shields of Strength has filed a federal lawsuit against the DoD, claiming that the DoD’s regulation prohibiting the use of official military emblems on religious items is unconstitutional.
The fact that this lawsuit has been filed two years after First Liberty took Shields of Strength on as a client obviously means that First Liberty has had no success in getting the DoD to change its mind and allow Shields of Strength to use its emblems on its Bible verse products through other means, such as its December 2019 letter to the Army Trademark and Licensing Office and its January 2020 letter to the Marine Corps Trademark and Licensing Office, which I wrote about at the time.
First Liberty has presumably written further letters to the military branches and the DoD over the intervening two years, but the DoD is apparently, and justifiably sticking to its guns – and its regulations – leaving First Liberty no option but the last-ditch effort of suing the DoD.
As already stated, the military’s decision to disallow Shields of Strength from using official DoD emblems on its Bible verse dog tags happened over two years ago, in 2019, when the former guy was still president. That pesky fact, however, isn’t stopping the luminaries over at Culture Watch News from blaming it on Biden, in a post titled “Joe Biden dropped the hammer on Christian soldiers in a shameful move against a Pentagon supplier,” or former Fox News personality Todd Starnes blaming it on a “Woke Pentagon” in his article “Woke Pentagon Caves to Bullies, Yanks Faith-Based Dog Tags.”
According to Culture Watch News, “Regardless of what happens, activist groups against Christians will be emboldened with Joe Biden in office.”
There are two things wrong with that sentence. First, MRFF is not anti-Christian. In fact, 95% of MRFF’s over 77,000 clients are actually Christians. And, second, MRFF doesn’t need to be emboldened by Joe Biden. We were every bit as bold when the former guy was in office!