The U.S. Military has revoked its approval of a series of military-themed Bibles, reportedly over trademark issues. Now, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is demanding that all remaining versions of the Bibles be removed from base exchanges — calling them a “threat to national security.”
The military series of Bibles were published by B&H Publishing, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination. They published four versions of the Holman Christian Standard Bible – representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
The Bibles are tailored to each specific military branch. For example, the cover of the Marine version says “The Marines’ Bible” – along with the USMC emblem. The Bibles contain special prayers and devotional material for military personnel.
But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained that the Bibles were an official endorsement by the U.S. Military. They alleged the Bibles not only violated the U.S. Constitution, but also violated Defense Department regulations.
“It totally savages one of the most basic Department of Defense regulations that exists,” spokesman Mikey Weinstein told Fox News Radio. “It does not allow the endorsement of a non-federal entity by the Department of Defense.”
Weinstein said nearly 2,000 service members contacted his organization to complain about the Bibles; some of those critics were “terrified to try to go up the chain of command,” he said.
“This raised fears among military personnel that, in the words of an anonymous U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate, it was a ‘big step towards establishing the Holman Christian Standard Bible as the official religious text of the military services of the United States.”
A LifeWay spokesman told Fox News Radio that they received authorization to use the official seals of the military branches in 2003.
“We received notice last year from the various branches withdrawing authorization,” the spokesman said. “After selling existing inventory of those bibles, B&H replaced the official seals with generic insignias which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve.”
The Department of Defense stressed that the revocation was solely a trademark issue and had absolutely nothing to do with religion. A spokesperson said those decisions are typically left up to the indivdual branches of the military.
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service told Fox News Radio they have 961 copies of the Bible on shelves at 83 facilities.
A Navy official told Fox News that their trademark licensing program was revamped in late 2011. They reviewed all their standing trademark agreements and applied new standards.
The Navy said LifeWay was notified on Feb. 15 that their previous approval did not meet the standards of the new rules. They said that the revocation had nothing to do with religion and said the changes were “driven by internal forces.”
However, the MRFF is taking credit for the revocation.
“If their logos are being placed on a particular version of Christianity – particularly when we are engaged in a war with fundamentalist Muslims that are trying to view this as a cosmic war between Jesus and Allah – it’s a security threat,” he said. “It’s neither a problem, it’s not an issue or a challenge. It’s a national security threat.”
According to a letter from the chief of the Air Force Trademark Licensing Program, the Air Force withdrew LifeWay’s authority to use their trademarks in 2011. The Air Force did allow LifeWay to deplete its existing stock through ongoing sales.
Weinstein said his organization had absolutely no problem with regular Bibles being sold at base stores, but he said the military-themed Bibles were in violation of the law.
“The Bible by itself is fine to be sold,” Weinstein told Fox News Radio. But he said they also want the remaining stock removed from base stores.
“Replace those Bibles with those that don’t have the emblems,” he said.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Fox News he was extremely disappointed in the decision to remove the military edition Bibles from exchange stores — and called the move “cowardly.”
“These Bibles cost the Department of Defense nothing, and their presence is legally legitimate,” Crews said. “Therefore, no reason exists for the DoD to retreat in the face of the small anti-religious group that demanded removal of the Bibles.”
Crews pointed out that military personnel dating back to General George Washington have taken counsel and been encouraged by biblical texts.
“Why should these Bibles be removed because of the demands of a small activist group,” he asked. “The MFRR must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty.”
He also called on Congress to investigate what he called “this frivolous threat and cowardly response by the DoD.”
Todd is the author of “Dispatches From Bitter America – Culture War Stories from a Gun-toting, Chicken-eating, Son-of-a-Baptist.” The book is endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Click here to get your copy!