Credit for nixing military logos on bibles disputed

For years, the different branches of the military allowed a private publisher to use their official logos on its Bibles, selling them at military stores as the “Airman’s Bible” or “Soldier’s Bible or “Marine’s Bible.” The Pentagon has stopped allowing use of those logos.


By CHARLES D. BRUNT | Albuquerque Journal, N.M. | Published: July 2, 2012

For years, the different branches of the military allowed a private publisher to use their official logos on its Bibles, selling them at military stores as the “Airman’s Bible” or “Soldier’s Bible" or “Marine’s Bible.”

The Pentagon has stopped allowing use of those logos, a decision lauded by Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein as “a clear win” for his group, the American people and the U.S. Constitution.

“We have no problem with Bibles being sold in post exchanges or base exchanges,” said Weinstein, who founded the locally based Military Religious Freedom Foundation in 2005. “It’s just that you can’t put the logos of the United States military on them.”

Weinstein says his organization was instrumental in the Pentagon’s decision to stop the use of the logos; the military disagrees.

The military says the decision to revoke Holman Bible Publisher’s authorization to use the logos on its series of military Bibles was the result of the revamping of each branch’s trademark and copyright policies. Military officials say the decision was “unrelated” to complaints by Weinstein’s group, whose goal is ensuring religious freedom for those serving in the U.S. military.

“The Pentagon says it was due to a routine review of their trademark stuff, and our response to that is it’s a complete, utter, unadulterated lie,” Weinstein said. “They did it because of the pressure we applied.”

In January, Weinstein — through the San Francisco, Calif.-based Jones Day law firm — sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arguing that the military’s authorization to allow the use of military logos on Holman’s military Bibles “is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment” and “violates several federal regulations.”

Holman Bible Publishers is an imprint of BandH Publishing Group, which is a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 2003, Holman received authorization from each branch of the military to use their respective logos on their branch-specific Bibles.

The Bibles, based on the Holman Christian Standard Bible — a modern English translation first published in 2004 — have been sold in all post and base exchanges and other stores on military bases.

BandH Publishing Group, through a spokesman , declined to discuss the issue, but provided a statement acknowledging that it was notified in 2011 of the revocation of each branch’s authorization to use the logos.

“After selling existing inventory of those Bibles, BandH replaced the official seals with generic insignias which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve,” the statement said.

Weinstein, a former Air Force Judge Advocate whose 2005 charges against the U.S. Air Force Academy led to an investigation that found religious “insensitivity” against non-fundamentalists at the academy, said the issue goes deeper than the emblems and the military’s tacit endorsement of Christianity over other religions.

He said the Holman Bibles contain essays and other information promoting the Officers’ Christian Fellowship, an organization of about 15,000 military officers whose stated mission is “to glorify God by uniting Christian officers for biblical fellowship and outreach, equipping and encouraging them to minister effectively in the military society.”

That, Weinstein said, is a clear endorsement of Christianity and blatant violation of the principle of church-state separation.

Though Weinstein says the removal of the logos from the Bibles is among his organization’s top accomplishments, the military gives him no credit for it.

Phone calls and emails seeking comment from the trademark and copyright offices of the Army and Air Force were not returned.

But Geoffrey M. McNutt, associate counsel for the Nav y’s O f f ice of Nava l Research, said last week that the Navy’s decision to withdraw Holman’s authority to use the Navy and Marines logos “was strictly a trademark licensing decision that was not related to the outside letters from Mr. Weinstein or anyone else.”

In a Feb. 21 letter to Weinstein’s attorney, the Navy and Marine Corps said that, as a result of the September 2011, centralization and a review of existing licensing agreements, the decision was made to revoke Holman’s authorization to use the Navy and Marine Corps logos.

“That was the basis of the revocation of Holman Bible’s permission,” McNutt said.

Weinstein said the Navy’s letter was his organization’s first notification that the logos were no longer being used on the Holman Bibles.

Similarly, correspondence from the Air Force and Army to Weinstein’s attorneys indicates their revocations were routine matters that occurred months before Weinstein’s organization raised the issue with Panetta in January 2012.

In its correspondence to Weinstein’s attorney, the Air Force said that “for reasons unrelated to your inquiry, on 9 September 2011, the Air Force withdrew LifeWay’s authority to use the Air Force trademarks on any of its products.”

The Army correspondence states that, “For unrelated reasons, on Aug. 11, 2011, the Army terminated LifeWay’s permission to use the Army Emblem on any of its commercial products.”

“This happens all the time,” Weinstein said. “If we catch them (the military) doing something wrong, they always say ‘Oh, yes, we were always going to fix that.’ ”

“We were on the verge of filing a massive class-action federal lawsuit against them on this, and they cratered,” he said.

The Soldier’s Bible, one of several military Bibles printed by Holman Bible Publishers, can no longer carry the official Army logo.


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