Group criticizes B&H 'Military Bibles'
NEW YORK (BP) -- The U.S. Military has revoked its approval of a series of military-themed Bibles, reportedly over trademark issues.
The military series of Bibles were published by B&H Publishing, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest non-Catholic denomination. They published four versions of the Holman Christian Standard Bible -- representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
The Bibles were tailored to each specific military branch. For example, the cover of the Marine version says "The Marines' Bible" -- along with the USMC emblem. The Bibles contain special prayers and devotional material for military personnel.
But the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained that the Bibles were an official endorsement by the U.S. Military. They alleged the Bibles not only violated the U.S. Constitution, but also violated Defense Department regulations. The foundation is claiming victory.
"It totally savages one of the most basic Department of Defense regulations that exists," spokesman Mikey Weinstein told Fox News Radio. "It does not allow the endorsement of a non-federal entity by the Department of Defense."
A LifeWay spokesman said the publisher received authorization to use the official seals of the military branches in 2003. B&H changed the Bibles last year.
"B&H Publishing Group received authorization in 2003 to use the official seals of the U.S. military branches on a series of HCSB Bibles," the spokesman, Marty King, said. "We received notice last year from the various branches withdrawing authorization. After selling existing inventory of those Bibles, B&H replaced the official seals with generic insignias which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve."
The Department of Defense stressed that the revocation was solely a trademark issue and had nothing to do with religion. A spokesperson said those decisions are typically left up to the individual branches of the military.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, pointed out that military personnel dating back to General George Washington have taken counsel and been encouraged by biblical texts.
"Why should these Bibles be removed because of the demands of a small activist group," he asked. "The MRFF must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty."