Mikey Weinstein Targets US Military over Bible-Themed Dog Tags

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his research assistant, Chris Rodda, recently criticized the presence of military symbols on products sold by Shields of Strength, an online jewelry/accessory store that sells various religious and patriotic-themed items, including some with Bible verses. (While Weinstein has claimed he never acts without a complaint from a member of the military, this complaint appears to have been generated by a FoxNews article and nothing more.)  The duo took specific aim at the SoS line of dog tags, which combine Bible verses with the emblems of the US Armed Forces. From Chris Rodda [emphasis added]:

The problem? The use of official Armed Forces emblems and logos on blatantly religious items like these dog tags is not only an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, but also violates the Department of Defense’s regulation on what items can and cannot be licensed to contain the official DoD emblems and logos.

The first accusation is laughable. No one thinks the government is establishing or endorsing a religion because a private company produces dog tags with Bible verses on them. The reference to the DoD regulation is interesting. Rodda says these “blatantly religious dog tags” — note her emphasis on the fact they’re “religious” — violate DoD Instruction 5535.12:

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…

Fair enough. The problem for Chris Rodda, though, is the fact that dog tags have Bible verses on them does not mean they “promote…religious beliefs.” They’re a retail product which promotes the profit of the company, and they have inspirational quotes on them. Yes, those quotes come from the Bible, but consider what these dog tags say:

  • Mount up with wings like eagles, run and not get tired, walk and not become weary.
  • May the Lord watch between you and me while we are apart. Genesis 31:49
  • I will be strong and courageous. I will not be afraid, I will not be discouraged.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails

Sorry, Chris, but if you think Shields of Strength and the US military are trying to “promot[e] religious beliefs” with those quotes, they’re clearly doing it wrong.

While Rodda clearly mischaracterized the dog tags and their relation to DoD instructions, Mikey Weinstein’s accusation was comical:

These Christian proselytizing dog tags are blatantly religious and wholly sectarian in representing solely the Christian faith.

Once again, it’s inconceivable to consider those dog tags with Bible verses “proselytizing.” It’s like he doesn’t even know what the word means.  Notably, Weinstein — who describes himself as an “agnostic Jew who prays” — claims the dog tags represent “solely the Christian faith,” despite the fact the majority of verses are shared with Judaism. While it is probably possible, it’s a bit difficult to “proselytize” the Christian faith using solely Jewish scripture, isn’t it, Mikey?

The products themselves may be “religious and sectarian” (a redundancy demonstrating the breadth of Weinstein’s grasp of the English language), but there’s nothing wrong with that — even if Mikey doesn’t like it. The DoD instructions don’t say it can’t be used on a religious item. It just says it can’t be used to promote a religion.

Even Chris Rodda realized the tenuous nature of their accusation. That’s why the MRFF also said [emphasis added]:

The U.S. military should absolutely not be officially endorsing through the use of its emblems and logos the products of a company whose stated mission for selling these products is: “To share the love, hope, forgiveness, and power of God’s Word with others and to see people victorious in life’s battles and in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

First, fact-check: The US military is not “officially endorsing” anything. That is, as they say in the business, “fake news”. Second, note that Rodda takes issue with the mission statement of Shields of Strength. Where, again, does it say the DoD can’t let organizations with religious mission statements use their marks?

That’s right: It doesn’t.

Christine is free to complain, but her angst is irrelevant. The DoD regulations upon which she’s depending do not say anything about the company associated with the products on which the DoD marks appear. They only say the DoD marks can’t be used to promote religious beliefs, and the dog tags on which the marks appear do not promote religious belief. They may promote good feelings, inspiration, self-worth, confidence, reassurance, courage, and warm, fuzzy intangibles, but the dog tags do not promote religion.

Here, however, using Rodda’s logic about the mission statement of the company, the dog tags could say nothing, and they’d still be illegal. Anyone with a 9th grade education knows that’s not what the DoD rules say.

Checkmate, Chris.

Feel free to try again, though, as we’re all sure you will. That’s the great thing about America — you’re free to be wrong, and you’re free to attack the human liberties of your fellow citizens merely because of the personal antipathy you hold toward their thoughts and beliefs. Fortunately, the US Constitution generally protects such liberties from bigoted attacks like that, though every now and then a few still get through.

That may even be the case here.  Currently, the Shields of Strength site does not show any dog tags available with the Navy or Marine Corps emblems, which was the basis of Weinstein’s initial letter.  So it is possible they’ve pulled those items, though Air Force and Army dog tags appear to still be available.

The US military may yet decide to withdraw or not renew their licensing agreement with Shields of Strength. That’s their prerogative, as there is no requirement for them to make their marks available — as long as they follow their own rules and do not restrict the use of the marks based merely on the beliefs of those using them.

Years ago, Mikey Weinstein tried to get the US Air Force to ban ChristianFighterPilot.com from using pilot wings on this site. You can see how that turned out by looking at the header above. A similar response is warranted here.

If you’d like to purchase some military-themed dog tags, which are actually pretty cool, if you’re into that kind of thing, visit Shields of Strength here.

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