Christian-owned company told they must remove Bible verses from Army products, including dog tags

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The Department of Defense is now facing a religious freedom lawsuit after they managed to create a problem for a Christian-owned company where one did not exist for over 23 years.

Shields of Strength has been told they can no longer offer their military branded dog tags with bible verses – something they have been doing without issue since 1997. The biblical inspired products are so popular that President George W. Bush even requested one in 2003 to honor the first soldier from Operation Iraqi Freedom who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, CPT Russell Rippetoe, according to their counsel’s website.

“You are not authorized to put biblical verses on your Army products… For example, Joshua 1:9. Please remove ALL biblical references for all of your Army products,” read a letter from Army Trademark licensing program director Paul Jensen in an August 2019 letter to Shields of Strength.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

Joshua 1:9 offers a message of strength and encouragement, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

First Liberty Institute, the organization representing the Christian company, has brought a federal lawsuit against the change in the application of the trademark licensing law claiming the Department of Defense’s (DoD) actions are unconstitutional, arbitrary, and capricious.

Kenny Vaughan, owner of Shields of Strength believes the change is related to a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

“It’s rooted in fear, fear always looks out for itself, love always looks out for others,” Vaughan explained. “Unfortunately, I think our leadership is afraid, they are afraid of bad press, they are afraid of what it may cost them. As a result, they are doing what is best for themselves without regard for the men and women that are fighting for our freedom.”

The complaint was initially filed with the Marine Corps Trademark and Licensing Program in July of 2019 by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

“These Christian proselytizing dog tags are blatantly religious and wholly sectarian in representing solely the Christian faith. Indeed, they each contain a Bible verse along with the official USMC emblem,” the complaint read.

In order to use military emblems on products, it must conform with Title 5 Federal Code Regulation that specifically regulates the use of DoD marks.

“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,” the law reads. “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…”

First Liberty Institute Gen Counsel Mike Berry noted that they have allowed Shield of Strength to do this for decades and the military members request them by the thousands.

“It wasn’t until this complaint showed up that all of a sudden they got spooked and said, ‘oh, this might violate the so-called separation of church and state, you better stop now or we might get sued or get some bad publicity,'” Berry explained.

Separation of church and state cannot be found in the United States’ founding documents and many people understand that the first amendment was intended to keep the government out of religion and not the other way around. The very basis for the city, county state, and federal government structure is based on biblical principles such as in Exodus 18:21 when God commanded Moses to set up a civil government structured similar to the one American citizens now enjoy with leaders places over “thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”

“My first hope is that the Secretary of Defense [Lloyd] Austin just wasn’t aware of this, because his unit has requested more Shields of Strength than any other units in the United States military, in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Vaughan said. “I hope when he sees this that he’ll realize what’s going on and stop it.”


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