The company, Shields of Strength, didn’t seem to care that using the official logos of the military illegally suggested an endorsement of religion that the military wasn’t making. (The Department of Defense’s own rules prohibit the logos from appearing on any items that promote certain ideologies or religious beliefs.)
All of that happened because the Military Religious Freedom Foundation‘s founder Mikey Weinstein sent letters to all of the military branches urging them to put a stop to what the Christian company was doing. It worked. The U.S. Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office was able to get the store to take down the Marine Corps and Navy dog tags. The Army followed suit later. (The Air Force dog tags are still available for purchase.)
Just to reiterate: The Christian jewelry store was selling merchandise that linked the owner’s faith with the U.S. military. That’s not allowed. That’s why the military told them to stop it. The company was perfectly within its rights to sell shirts saying “I love the Army” or “Proud mother of a soldier,” but they cannot use the official logos.
It’s not complicated. The rules apply to everyone.
Now a Republican lawmaker is trying to change the rules in order to benefit Christians.
Rep. Gregory Steube of Florida has introduced a bill, HB 5657, that would allow any trademarks owned by the Department of Defense to be “combined with religious insignia on commercial identification tags (commonly known as “dog tags”) and to be sold by lawful trademark licensees.”
In short, it’s a bill that would allow this company to keep suggesting — wrongly — that we have a Christian military.
If it passes, the bill would also be retroactive to September 13, 2013. That would, among other things, keep this particular Christian company in the clear.
MRFF’s Chris Rodda rightly points out that all of this is unnecessary:
To be clear: Nobody is stopping Shields of Strength from making dog tags with Bible verses on them, and nobody is stopping service members from wearing them — they just can’t have the official trademarked military emblems on them and be sold as officially licensed merchandise.
But this is what Republicans do. They carve out opportunities for Christians to get away with damn near anything no matter how much it hurts the country. Passing this bill would send a clear message that our military is okay being used as a pawn in a faith-based culture war. There’s a reason the government is supposed to be secular. It provides religious freedom for everyone. Allowing religious groups to co-opt the military in order to make some cash is a short-term gain that would create long-term damage.
It’s irresponsible. It’s also what we’ve come to expect of conservative Christians.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)