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By Todd Beamon
The Conference of Jewish Affairs on Thursday asked the Army to reconsider a ban on replica dog tags displaying the agency’s emblem and Bible references because it bars a “personal touchstone for our warriors seeking a sense of higher mission and divine protection.”
“No soldier is forced to inscribe a biblical verse on his personal dog tag, though the Army has over the years allowed soldiers to do so if they wish,” Rabbi Aryeh Spero, the conference’s president, said in a letter to Paul Jensen, director of the Army Trademark Licensing Program.
“Those who choose to do so feel a sense of confidence, inner strength, and inspiration when wearing or looking at their tag prior to battle or during moments of anxiousness or contemplation.
“It is not done for purposes of religious missionizing, rather as a personal touchstone for our warriors seeking a sense of higher mission and divine protection,” Spero said.
“The Army is not promoting religion, rather allowing soldiers to exercise their personal religious needs.”
In August, Jensen banned a faith-based company, Shields of Strength LLC, from selling the medallions with the scriptures after Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), complained that such “proselytizing merchandise” violated Pentagon policy.
Shields of Strength, The Army Times reports, has been selling the replica tags under an Army-granted license in 2012, though they had sold millions of tags to servicemembers without a license since 1998.
In July, the Marine Corps Trademark Counsel banned Shields of Strength, based in Beaumont, Texas, from using the branch’s emblem on its products after receiving a complaint from MRFF, the Army Times reports.
The Conference of Jewish Affairs is based in Bedminster, N.J.
In his Army letter, Spero suggested that the agency’s “reflexive” decision was “hastily made.”
He also slammed MRFF as a “one-man operation” in which Weinstein “has been on a campaign for decades to expunge from the public sphere any expression of sentiments or values sourced in the Bible.”
Spero proposed that Weinstein’s threat of legal action — “as has been his practice for decades” — led the Army to “reverse an honorable tradition.”
“Weinstein has no official standing,” the rabbi continued. “He is simply a private citizen who appears to have an animus against Christian beliefs and expressions.
“Instead of submitting to his bullying,” Spero said, “he should be rebuffed.”
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