Remember the “America is a Christian Nation” billboards that were recently taken down in Dallas, Texas? They were part of a promotional campaign by Pastor Robert Jeffress for a “Freedom Sunday” event taking place today morning.
The promotions were even worse than that false message. In a video for the event, Jeffress said the sermons would include a “salute to our Armed Forces.” As he said it, each branch’s seals were highlighted in the background:
That’s flat-out illegal to do. You can’t use the military’s symbols in an advertisement.
On Thursday, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urging him to put a stop to this:
The display of these official seals by any non-federal entity is strictly prohibited according to the DoD guidance entitled “Important Information and Guidelines About the Use of Department of Defense Seals, Logos, Insignia, and Service Medals,” issued on 16 October 2015, (link to document here) which clearly states the prominent prohibition regarding the seals used by First Baptist Dallas church: “The following DoD and Military Seals may be used ONLY by the Military Departments for official purposes and are protected by law from unauthorized use.”
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) officially requests that you expeditiously reach out to Robert Jeffress and/or his church to put an end to his illicit behavior in creating the impression that the U.S. Department of Defense is endorsing their tortured version of revisionist historical Christian primacy.
Subtlety has never been a strong suit of MRFF’s founder and president Mikey Weinstein.
A separate letter was sent to Jeffress that day making the same demand.
As of Friday, the church said nothing would change, saying in a statement, “We plan to honor our military this Sunday at our Celebrate Freedom services, as planned.”
But something must have happened since FOX News’ Todd Starnes shared late last night how the church caved to government officials:
[The Pentagon] sent a letter asking the church to remove the military graphics from the program.
“We are concerned that use of the DoD Component marks creates an appearance of endorsement and or affiliation with your church’s Freedom Sunday, when that is not the case,” a Pentagon official wrote to Jeffress. “Federal regulations prohibit the use of official military markings in ways that imply endorsement of a commercial entity or activity.”
The Pentagon also said the church had unknowingly violated trademark licensing laws.
“Because your church has apparently used these seals in the past, we presume you are unaware that the DoD and the Military Service seals, along with many other military insignia, are protected by law from unauthorized use and may only be used for official purposes,” the Pentagon official wrote.
“We understand your goal is to recognize the men and women in the military,” the Pentagon official wrote. “Therefore, recommend the continued use of the phrase ‘Salute to our U.S. Armed Forces’ without the military marks.”
It’s like the Pentagon copied and pasted Weinstein’s letter in their own demand to First Baptist Church…
You can see the new ad — sans military symbols — right here:
MRFF celebrated a victory they felt was their own, saying in a statement:
Robert Jeffress, as a direct consequence of MRFF’s demand, will now not be associating his divisive, prejudiced, bigoted, and lie-riddled “America is a Christian Nation” message with the U.S. Armed Forces.
There may not be a direct association, but I have no doubt Jeffress will imply it anyway. But remember, as his event goes on, that it happened only after the billboards came down and the military told Jeffress to back off.
Jeffress may want to equate the Armed Forces with his brand of conservative Christian religion, but the military wants nothing to do with him.