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'Shields of Strength' Gets Greenlight to Sue DoD for Prohibiting Military Dog Tags with Bible Verses

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The faith-based seller of military-themed dog tags engraved with inspirational Bible verses has been cleared to pursue a lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DoD) after the Pentagon halted its production effort. 

As CBN News reported, the DoD prohibited Shields of Strength from producing or selling licensed items with religious content after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an anti-religious group, in 2019. 

Kenny Vaughn and his wife, Tammie, had been producing the inspirational dog tags for 20 years without issue until MRFF demanded they stop. 

The anti-religion group sent letters to the Pentagon, the Army, and Marines complaining about the Bible-based product.

"The letter of the law states that you cannot do this because that would be in this case breaching the separation of church and state and applying, in this case, an endorsement by the Department of Defense and military branches on a clearly proselytizing message," said MRFF.

After reviewing the complaint, the Marines and the Army sent Vaughan cease and desist letters. One of them said in part, that it could not "...tolerate merchandise that had a) Marine Corps trademarks and b) a religious theme. This is in direct violation of the Department of Defense Instruction..."

"Further, please refrain from submitting items for approval that are clearly of a religious nature and which bear USMC trademarks," the letter continued.

First Liberty, a non-profit legal group, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 14, 2021, calling the Pentagon's move "arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion." It also stated that the military violated the First Amendment's right to religious liberty.  

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"This lawsuit may set precedence to protect against First Amendment restrictions for Christians serving in Uniform and to protect Christian-owned businesses against unfair Trademark practices by the federal government," reads a 2021 statement on the SoS website.

The DoD filed a motion to dismiss the case in a Texas federal court, but a judge recently ruled that SoS could move forward with their lawsuit against the department citing First Amendment violations. 

"The First Amendment claims survive that test. Because the Constitution itself provides judicially manageable standards, a claim that agency action violates the Constitution is reviewable unless Congress's intent to bar review is 'clear.' And nothing establishes such a 'clear' bar to review of constitutional claims here," reads the ruling.

Both First Liberty and the Vaughns celebrated the court's decision. 

"The decision by the court is a victory not only for Shields of Strength and its owner, Kenny Vaughan but also for the brave men and women of our armed forces and their families who gain divine inspiration from Shields' replica dog tags containing biblical scripture and military insignia," said Danielle Runyan, senior counsel and chair of the Military Affairs practice group for First Liberty. 

"Shields of Strength has been a source of strength and encouragement for our military heroes for over 25 years," said Vaughan. "We look forward to the day we no longer have to say no to a soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman who is asking for a reminder of God's promise."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.