Family-Owned Company Sues Pentagon for Blocking It from Printing Bible Verses on Dog Tags
( Breitbart )
Shields of Strength, a small, family-owned, faith-based company, is suing the Pentagon after it blocked it from continuing to produce replica dog tags with Bible verses on them.
First Liberty Institute, on behalf of the company, filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon on December 17, asking a federal court to review and reverse decisions that forbid the company to print inspirational Bible verses on replica dog tags.
Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement, “It’s a cruel insult to our service members to deny them a source of inspiration, hope, and encouragement simply because it contains a religious message.”
“DOD officials caved to the empty threats of those who make their living by being offended. There’s no legal reason for the military to discriminate against Shields of Strength,” he said.
Shields of Strength has been making dog tag replicas with Bible verses for the past 20 years, including for military units at the request of commanders. According to Berry, now-Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had requested them once for his unit.
Berry said after the military branches in 2011 trademarked certain words and logos associated with them, Shields of Strength obtained licenses to continue making dog tags featuring the words or logos associated with the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force on one side and the Bible verses on the other side.
However, an organization ironically named the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a complaint in 2019 to the Department of Defense saying the company should not be allowed to use its licenses with anything religious, prompting the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps to not renew licensing with the company.
First Liberty said in a recent news release on December 17:
Far from helping our military service members or protecting religious freedom in our armed forces, MRFF has simply created a problem where none exists. For decades, it’s been more than clear that military service members love wearing Shields of Strength to help encourage them in their most difficult moments. With our recent lawsuit, First Liberty is seeking to set the record straight. There’s no legal reason for the military to discriminate against Shields of Strength. What’s more, it’s a cruel insult to our service members to deny them a source of inspiration, hope and encouragement simply because it contains a religious message. Shields of Strength are much more than just pieces of metal on a chain for men and women of faith in our military. These Scripture-inscribed dog tags are a source of reassurance, a symbol of sacrifice and a tangible reminder of the strength gained through their faith.
Shields of Strength was founded in 1997 by Kenny Vaughan and his wife Tammie to encourage service members. One of its first orders came in 2001 from a military unit about to be deployed to Afghanistan — the 86th Signal Battalion. The couple donated 500 dog tags they called “Shields” to the unit.
The company also donated more than 50,000 pieces a month during the Iraq War, and one time even fulfilled a request for 30,000 pieces, according to First Liberty. The company has made more than five million dog tags and donated hundreds of thousands to active-duty members and veterans, as well as first responders and to the families of those fallen.
“It’s harsh and unkind that an outside group like the MRFF would pursue a radical agenda and seek to deny our service members—particularly those who may have to fight in the fiercest battles—the right to wear inspirational jewelry,” First Liberty Institute said.
“Nowhere are attacks on faith more repugnant than those aimed at the men and women who voluntarily placed their lives on the line to defend the freedom of others. That’s why First Liberty is fighting to make sure outside, anti-faith groups don’t get away with stripping away the rights of our men and women in uniform—especially their God-given freedom to find inspiration in their faith,” it said.