It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes, but there are nonprofit organizations going to great lengths to protect U.S. troops against … religion.
A private company says it has been told by the Army Trademark Licensing Program to halt sales of its replica dog tags, which are stamped with the service’s emblems alongside biblical scripture, after a nonprofit group issued formal complaints about the practice violating separation of church and state.
Shields of Strength LLC started selling the trinkets under an Army-granted license in 2012, but the company previously operated without a license, selling millions of replica dog tags since 1998.
The faith-based company’s ability to use Army emblems was put in jeopardy this July following formal complaints from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, or MRFF, an advocacy group focused on First Amendment issues related to the armed services.
Mikey Weinstein, founder of MRFF, told Army Times that the “proselytizing merchandise” was “a clear-cut violation” of Pentagon policy, which doesn’t allow trademarked logos to be used to promote religious beliefs, as well as non-belief.
The Marine Corps Trademark Counsel was also sent a complaint by MRFF in July and agreed to bar its emblem’s use on similar products by Shields of Strength.
The Army responded on Aug. 12, but not to Weinstein. Kenny Vaughan, president of Shields of Strength, said he received an email from Army Trademark Licensing Program director Paul Jensen with the subject line “Negative Press.”
“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.”