Religious Liberty Group Defends Religious-Themed Dog Tags

Remember Shields of Strength?

In July, this site highlighted the complaint by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein that caused the US military to tell Shields of Strength to stop putting Bible verses on their military-themed faux dog tags.

As noted at the time, contrary to Weinstein’s claims, the military is free to license its trademarks to anyone it wants — so long as it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs when it does so.

And that’s precisely what it did with the license to SoS.

First Liberty has now taken up the cause of Kenny Vaughan and Shields of Strength, sending a letter to the Army telling them what they already know: They’re guilty of viewpoint discrimination — restricting Shields of Strength only on the basis of the content of their beliefs. Said Mike Berry of First Liberty:

“The government grants licenses to people and entities all the time,” Berry said over the telephone. “What the government can’t do is discriminate when it grants those licenses. … It is basically saying ‘we’re happy to grant licenses to anyone, as long as it’s not religious.’ And that’s clearly what the Army is doing here.”

That’s precisely what the military is doing — and they’re clearly wrong to do so.

In July, Weinstein tried to make the case the dog tags violated DoD policy because they “promoted a religious belief,” a laughable argument that not even the military bought. The Army, for its part, told SoS to stop using Bible verses only because they wanted to avoid “negative press.” That’s Mikey Weinstein’s “silence by stigma” at work:

“The subject line of the email that Kenny, our client, received said ‘Negative Press,’” Berry told Army Times. “That should be a dead giveaway that there’s not really any legal concern here. They didn’t like the negative media attention they received.”

Sorry, but “negative press” does not legitimize the heckler’s veto — or what the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals called the “ignoramus’ veto,” a term that appropriately applies to one Mikey Weinstein.

For his part, Weinstein is trying — unsuccessfully — to shape the narrative. He has repeatedly put out announcements highlighting that the press is “covering the MRFF” when it discusses this story — except they’re covering the well-spoken position of First Liberty, not the bellicose Mikey. In fact, Chris Rodda’s Daily Kos article in July garnered exactly 3 comments in as many months — which makes the military’s “negative press” concern ludicrous. In July the Army highlighted the MRFF’s complaint that was reported in a Friendly Atheist blog post — something that hardly constitutes “press,” much less anything that can be considered remotely objective.

In fact, the “Friendly Atheist” himself, Hemant Mehta, took up the cause again and claimed the military was only defending its logo — which moronically ignored the whole concept of licensing:

The company can’t just put someone else’s logo on their religious products and start selling them. They can’t do it with the military either. Neither can atheist groups.

Sorry, Hemant, that’s not how licensing works.  If someone gives you permission to put their logo on your products, you absolutely can do so.  And if they’re the government, they can’t restrict licensing only because of the religious content of the speech involved.  It’s a simple issue.

Still, Hemant is an atheist bit writer.  First Liberty, by contrast, had major media coverage in hours — making the new “negative press” more motivating, and Weinstein look quite the vindictive fool.

In fact, while Chris Rodda’s blog caught the attention of three people at a liberal self-posting site, First Liberty’s efforts have already resulted in a congressional inquiry with the Army:

Rep. Ralph Abraham, Louisiana Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called out “troubling reports” about the Army’s action in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper seeking clarification on the Pentagon’s “logo licensing policy for productions containing” biblical verses.

The Conference of Jewish Affairs joined in First Liberty’s call on the US military to reverse its ban on the religiously-themed dog tag jewelry. Rabbi Aryeh Spero appeared to have long followed this site when he

slammed MRFF as a “one-man operation” in which Weinstein “has been on a campaign for decades to expunge from the public sphere any expression of sentiments or values sourced in the Bible.”

Spero proposed that Weinstein’s threat of legal action — “as has been his practice for decades” — led the Army to “reverse an honorable tradition.”

“Weinstein has no official standing,” the rabbi continued. “He is simply a private citizen who appears to have an animus against Christian beliefs and expressions.

“Instead of submitting to his bullying,” Spero said, “he should be rebuffed.”

Well said, though it will probably earn Spero an affectionate appellation from the hate-filled Weinstein, as has been his practice in the past.

There is hope, of course, because while lower level government officials have still made incorrect decisions even under a more religious liberty-friendly Trump Administration, upper levels of government leadership have been more apt to reverse such decisions — and to do so relatively quickly. This includes, of course, the knee-jerk banning of a Bible at the Manchester VA — a decision that was not only reversed quickly but also caused government leaders to forcefully speak out against Mikey Weinstein’s bigotry.

The support for religious liberty — visible in many of our current government leaders — is a welcome change to past years. Hopefully, that strong support will continue in this case and into the future.

Remember that when it comes time to vote.

Read First Liberty’s letter to the Army.  You can buy SoS dog tags here. Also at the Religion Clause, Washington Free Beacon, and an editorial by Kelly Shackelford.

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4 comments

  • Well written. God is surely using Mikey Weinstein in powerful ways. The more he complains, the more God’s name and purpose is brought to the public light.

  • Great story. Wonderful to read a strong reply to Mikey’s pouting,

  • Ironically, although the ID tags include religion as a way of ensuring that religious needs will be met, some personnel have them issued or reissued without religious affiliation listed—or keep two sets, one with the designation and one without—out of fear that identification as a member of a particular religion could increase the danger to their welfare or their lives if they fell into enemy hands. Some Jewish personnel avoided flying over German lines during WWII with ID tags that indicated their religion, and some Jewish personnel avoid the religious designation today out of concern that they could be captured by extremists who are anti-semitic .

    • You’re generally correct regarding dog tags, but these are ‘jewelry’ or novelty dog tags, not the ones issued by the military.

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