U.S. Rep. Mark Green, along with Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina, wrote Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, urging Esper to reverse a decision that would halt the company "Shields of Strength" from producing dog tags with U.S. Military seals alongside scriptures from the Bible.
The faith-based organization Shields of Strength has distributed millions of custom dog tags over the years bearing U.S. Military branch emblems alongside Bible scriptures. Back in July, however, the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint to the Department of Defense regarding the dog tags, claiming that the appearance of a U.S. Military branch seal alongside a religious text violates the two party's trademark agreement, as well as sets a poor precedent in upholding the separation of church and state.
"During the War on Terror, many soldiers have found hope and inspiration by carrying the simple reminder of their faith and service to our nation in the form of dog tags with biblical versus or references printed on them," reads the letter signed by Green and Hudson. "Unfortunately, after the Army received a threatening letter from an atheist group bent on removing any form of faith in the military, they caved and told [Shields of Strength] to remove all biblical references from their products immediately. By doing so they have unconstitutionally discriminated against service members and created a hostility toward religion within the Army."
"The Constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of religion to include the disfavoring of certain religious views. Additionally, the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause protects both individuals and private entities such as [Shields of Strength]. To be clear, no one was forced to buy, wear, or carry any of these products. It was solely based on an individual’s choice to carry a simple yet powerful reminder of their faith."
Founder and president of the MRFF, Mikey Weinstein, argues that the removal of U.S. Military seals from custom dog tags with Biblical references on them to be upholding the Constitution, rather than violating it.
"These are not government-issued dog tags at all, these are pretend, souvenir dog tags that people can buy from a for-profit Christian company that negotiated — supposedly in good faith - with the Department of Defense to use its logos; the Army, Navy, Air Force [and] Marine Corps under trademark law," Weinstein told the Home Page. "Part of those agreements makes it clear that anyone whose granted a license may not further a political, commercial or religious agenda, which is exactly what Shields of Strength has done by putting the military logos on those dog tags. It's a complete violation of the trademark agreement that they had."
Weinstein said that he nor his organization took issue with custom dog tags bearing religious texts, rather, the issue lies in the "[implied] governmental approval of the proselytizing message."
"Imagine the blood in the streets of Nashville or wherever you live if it was an Islamic company that was doing this and wanted to put Islamic citations from the Quran out there with the logos of the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force — or an atheist organization, or a satanic organization," Weinstein said. "In this country, Christianity gets no special place of honor above any other faith or no faith, because we have the separation of church and state in the First Amendment."
Since the complaint made by the MRFF had gone public, Weinstein said he has received numerous death threats, and has had to resort to body guards and local law enforcement for protection. Weinstein said as a registered Republican, the complaint was not made as an attack against Christians, but rather to protect the integrity of the U.S. Military.
"Half of my family is Christian, this is not an aspect of eating Christians for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is supporting the Constitution and trademark law, so it's really quite simple," Weinstein said. "I spent over three years on the West Wing working for the Reagan White House, I was one of Reagan's attorneys. I'm an Air Force Academy graduate, my dad went to the Naval Academy, I'm a registered Republican, so this isn't a question of liberals running amok."
"The muscle, organs, bone and flesh of the military is good order, moral, discipline, unit cohesion, the health and safety of troops and mission accomplishment. All of them are destroyed and ripped asunder by this kind of stuff. If you elevate someone's skin color, sexual orientation, gender or religion, it destroys the unit cohesion, good order, moral and discipline necessary to allow our military to be as lethal as possible [and] to protect the constitution rights for all the rest of us."