By Jack Minor
The Pentagon has revoked permission for a Christian ministry to produce Bibles for different branches of the military, marked with those insignias, after an anti-Christian group called them a threat to national security.
In 2003, B&H Publishing, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, was given authorization to use the official seals of the U.S. military branches on a line of Bibles. No government funds were used in the production of the Bibles, which contained devotional material unique to each service branch in much the same way they are tailored to other groups such as teens or children.
As part of the features, the Bibles featured the Pledge of Allegiance, the first and fourth verses of the Star Spangled Banner, Patton's famous Christmas prayer card from 1944 as well as testimonials from the Officers' Christian Fellowship.
Nowhere in the Bibles did they state that they were endorsed by any government entity or military branch.
Despite this, last year the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta demanding the military rescind its authorization to use the service emblems, saying it was a violation of church and state separation.
The request by the group was subsequently granted. Marty King, communications director for LifeWay said, "We received notice last year from the various branches withdrawing authorization."
While the group was told it would be able to sell its existing stock, last week it was announced that the Department of Defense was pulling all known copies of the Bibles from exchange stores.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is taking credit for the removal of the Bibles from service exchanges and removal of the service insignias.
"Once again our foundation has decisively beaten back those who would see the wall separating church and state reduced to rubble," said Mikey Weinstein, MRFF spokesman. "The very fact that the Pentagon – or 'Pentacostal-gon' – had allowed for the insignias of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force to be used for such a clearly evangelical fundamentalist agenda should sicken anyone with any inkling of respect for the 'sacred' principle of religious freedom as enshrined by the foundational documents of our nation, namely the U.S. Constitution."
While the group claims that it is not an atheist organization and that many of its members are Christians, Weinstein admitted the group was opposed to evangelical Christianity. In an interview with Anti-war.com, he said, "We're fighting a Fundamentalist-Christian-Parachurch-Military-Corporate-Proselytizing-Complex."
Additionally, the group says that placing service logos on Bibles is a "national security threat."
"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."
The group claims the military Bibles are also in violation of the law, but they have no problem with other Bibles being sold. "The Bible by itself is fine to be sold," Weinstein told Fox News Radio.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty said it was outrageous that the DoD prohibited the publisher from printing the Bibles with the emblems.
"DoD regularly allows vendors to use branch insignia for other books, for paintings and other items," the group said.
"From General George Washington until today, military personnel have taken counsel, received comfort, and been encouraged by biblical texts," said Col. Ron Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance. "These Bibles cost the Department of Defense nothing, and their presence is legally legitimate; therefore, no reason exists for the DoD to retreat in the face of the small anti-religious group that demanded removal of the Bibles."
The group said the decision is another attempt by the DoD to create a "religion free" zone in the military and is calling on Congress to investigate the issue.