Company sues US military over ban on Bible-themed nameplates

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Force shields
Identity plates Shields of strength |

A Texas-based religious company that makes dog ID tags with Bible verses and Christian images has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Defense over its decision to ban the company from selling religious plaques with trademarks of the United States Armed Forces.

Shields of Strength filed a lawsuit last week against the US Department of Defense and others related to the military in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division.

According to the lawsuit, the litigation concerned a decision by various branches of the military to prohibit Shields of Strength from using the various trademarks of the armed forces on their specialized identification plates.

For over 20 years, Shields of Strength had been allowed to include military marks alongside quotes from Bible verses and Christian images, such as a cross. The company boasts of having sold or given away around 4 million identity tags.

According to an April 2020 Defense Ministry instruction, military marks cannot be included on products that promote religious views.

“DoD marks may not be used under license in a manner that creates a perception of approval by the DoD of any non-federal entity or its products and services,” the instruction said.

“DoD marks may not be licensed for any purpose to promote ideological movements, socio-political changes, religious beliefs (including non-belief), specific interpretations of morality, or legislative / statutory changes. “

In its complaint, Shields of Strength accused the military of violating its religious freedom when the DoD demanded the removal of religious items from specialized name tags.

“The DoD’s directive that SoS remove all Biblical references from its products demonstrates precisely the kind of government hostility to religion that the establishment clause prohibits,” the lawsuit said.

“SoS suffered irreparable harm, including the loss of fundamental constitutional rights, giving it the right to injunction, declaratory judgment, legal remedy, damages under [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act], as well as legal fees and expenses.

Shields of Strength is represented by the First Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm based in Plano, Texas, and the Fish & Richardson law firm.

“It is a cruel insult to our military to deny them a source of inspiration, hope and encouragement just because it contains a religious message,” Mike Berry of the First Liberty Institute said in a statement released on Monday. last week.

“DOD officials have yielded to empty threats from those who make a living by being offended. There is no legal reason for the army to discriminate against shields by force, ”he added.

In July 2019, Military Religious Freedom Foundation Chairman Mikey Weinstein sent cease and desist letters to every branch of the military, demanding that they prohibit Shields of Strength from using each branch’s marks. military on its products.

“Shields of Strength is and always has been free to produce and sell its other products,” Weinstein said in a statement to Fox News. “It is only those products with an official DoD emblem for which a DoD license is required that the DoD has declared Shields of Strength cannot sell.”

“I hope any competent federal judge will easily see through the specious subterfuge of the First Liberty Institute and rightly rule in favor of DoD via DoD, or the DoJ on behalf of the DoD, by filing a simple summary judgment motion. or other routine preliminary requests. “

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