The U.S. Army has banned Shields of Strength, a private faith-based jewelry company, from producing replica dog tags with encouraging Bible verses on them for soldiers.
For more than 20 years, the owners of Shields of Strength, Kenny and Tammie Vaughan, have been making replica dog tags with Bible verses or Biblical references on them for service members and first responders.
To date, Shields of Strength has made over 4 million dog tags, giving hundreds of thousands to the U.S. military. In fact, during the Iraq War, they donated more than 50,000 pieces a month and even fulfilled a single request for 30,000 pieces.
“Virtually every unit has contacted us and said, ‘Would you make us a tag with our unit on it?’” Kenny Vaughan said in a FOX News interview. “We’ve seen the fruit of the mission. Literally thousands of soldiers, airmen, Marines, tell us with tears in their eyes how much it’s meant to them, and many times the Gold Star families [tell us how much it means] to be in possession of the dog tag [their loved one] wore.”
But after Fox News wrote an article about the company in July, Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the deceptively-named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, raised complaints about Shields of Strength to the Department of Defense. He sent a letter demanding that all military branches stop allowing the company to use the military emblem, saying it “poisons the constitutionally mandated separation for Church and State.”
In August, Vaughan received an email titled “Negative Press” from Army Trademark Licensing Program director, Paul Jenson, informing him that Shields of Strength was no longer “authorized to put Biblical verses on Army products.”
Suggesting that the Army was motivated by MRFF threats of “administrative and litigation complaints” and “compel compliance,” Jenson told Vaughan to “please remove ALL Biblical references from all your Army products.”
Vaughan told “Fox & Friends” he was speechless.
On behalf of Vaughan, religious liberty law firm First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the Army on Tuesday, calling on the branch to reinstate the trademark license for Shields of Strength.
“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,” Mike Berry, chief of staff for First Liberty, said in a press release. “The MRFF is twisting the law in an attempt to deny Shields of Strength to military personnel. Army officials should just ignore the message of those who make their living by being offended.”
“The love of Jesus changed my life forever,” said Vaughan. “The most valuable thing I have to offer anyone is God’s Word. No one needs it more than a young man or woman fighting for our freedom. I hope the Army sees that the very freedom our soldiers fight for is at stake.”
Photo: Courtesy of First Liberty Institute