Military emblems removed from Bibles

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation claims permission granted to LifeWay Christian Resources to imprint official armed forces emblems on Bibles sold to military personnel was unconstitutional.

By Bob Allen

A group that monitors religious freedom violations in the armed forces claimed victory June 11 after the Pentagon announced that LifeWay Christian Resources can no longer use official emblems of the four military branches on Bibles sold at military installations around the globe.

In an exchange of letters with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Defense Department officials said permission granted in 2003 to the Southern Baptist Convention publishing house to use military emblems on four Holman Christian Standard Bibles titled The Soldier’s Bible, Sailor’s Bible, Marine’s Bible and Airman’s Bible was revoked when the military revamped its trademark licensing regulations in 2011.

The Albuquerque-based foundation formed to defend both freedom of and freedom from religion in the military complained after learning through a Freedom of Information Act request that the Army gave LifeWay permission on March 13, 2003, to utilize the Army emblem on books published for commercial sale. Lawyers claimed it violated the Establishment Clause by giving appearance of a government stamp of approval on the Bibles, which are available only in Protestant versions and include supplemental study material with an evangelical bent.

Military officials responded that LifeWay was notified it may no longer use military insignias on the Bibles, but could sell already-printed copies until the stock was depleted.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, started by United States Air Force Academy graduate Mikey Weinstein, said over the past few years it has probably received more complaints about military Bibles displayed and sold in base exchanges and other stores on military bases than any other single issue.

Fox News quoted a LifeWay spokesman who said B&H Publishing, a division of LifeWay, now uses generic insignias instead of official emblems, and that the Bibles continue to sell well.