The Army Trademark Licensing Program has banned a Christian company from putting Biblical verses in replica dog tags.
Shields of Strength LLC (SoS), a faith-based jewelry company, has been selling millions of replica dog tags since 1998 and got a license to sell the items from the Army in 2012. The Army recently called the attention of the company about the dog tags following complaints from the watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, reports The Army Times.
Your censorship of Shields of Strength’s (SoS) religious expression amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. —Mike Berry, Chief of Staff, First Liberty Institute
In an email to Shields of Strength, Army Trademark Licensing Program director Paul Jensen wrote: “You are not authorized to put biblical verses on your Army products. For example Joshua 1:9. Please remove ALL biblical references from all of your Army products.”
The MRFF complained that the Texas-based company violates the Department of Defense (DoD) regulations that prohibit the use of Army emblems to evangelize. Mikey Weinstein, founder of MRFF, said the “proselytizing merchandise” was “a clear-cut violation” of Pentagon policy, which bans trademarked logos to be used to promote religion or nonreligion.
“Such craven utilization of American military logos and related symbology by this sectarian Christian group (Shields of Strength) not only viciously violates well established DoD regulatory law but also poisons the Constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State,” Weinstein said in a statement.
Shields of Strength is prepared to fight the Army’s directive and said it will continue producing and selling of military-themed items. The company is represented by First Liberty Institute which argued that SoS is protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses.
In a letter to Jensen, Chief of Staff Mike Berry said, “Your censorship of SoS’s religious expression amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination because your directive to SoS censors or bans only its religious speech, solely because it is religious.”