A Decades-Old Tradition of Military Members Strengthening their Faith with Scripture—Now Under Attack by Rogue Anti-Faith Activists.
Since 1997, over a million U.S. Military service members have worn Shields of Strength—replica dog tags inscribed with Bible verses to inspire and encourage our men and women as they face the dangers of war.
As one veteran puts it: “This isn’t just a piece of metal. This is honor, dignity, and glory—it’s faith in your eternal security.”
President George W. Bush even requested his own Shield of Strength back in 2003 as he honored CPT Russell Rippetoe—the first soldier from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery—with a speech reciting Joshua 1:9, the verse on Rippetoe’s Shield of Strength dog tag.
And now, even though so many of our men and women in uniform like CPT Rippetoe have found comfort and peace in their faith via Shields of Strength without complaint, the deceptively-named Military Religious Freedom Foundation is trying to have them removed—simply because they have a religious message.
On May 13th, First Liberty Institute and the law firm Fish & Richardson filed a motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Shields of Strength, seeking to stop the Department of Defense (DoD) from enforcing its discriminatory policy which prevents Shields from producing and distributing military themed replica dog tags with encouraging Bible verses.
As Kenneth Davis, a U.S. Air Force and Marine veteran puts it: “This tag is faith. This is believing that you’re going to live—and that even if you die, you’ll be holding hands with God for eternity. That’s what it means to me…and every veteran I know feels the same way.”
This is exactly why Shields of Strength founder, Kenny Vaughan, began sharing the tags with military members over two decades ago.
“I always loved the military. My father was in the military. But it was only after meeting and getting to know the soldiers that I fully realized how much they sacrifice. I just pray that Shields of Strength would encourage them, keep them in their purpose, and keep them in the fight.”
And it’s not just the soldiers themselves that attach such meaning to these tags—it’s their families as well. It’s the countless stories of mothers, fathers, and sisters who—though they have lost a loved one in the flesh—remain connected to them in spirit when they hold that loved one’s dog tag. The kind of meaning that surpasses all monetary value.
Back in 1996, Kenny Vaughan was a professional water-skier who was dealing with fears and frustrating injuries. To help him overcome these fears, he and his wife Tammie wrote a Bible verse on his waterski rope, which ended up giving him the courage to win one of his most important athletic competitions.
“It encouraged me to see that, just to know that maybe I didn’t have to live in fear, that I could overcome it,” said Vaughan. “I got the gold medal, which was great, but the real trophy was the change in my heart. That applied not only to ski jumping but to everything in my life.”
Since then, Kenny has worn military-like dog tags engraved with inspiring Scriptures. They soon founded Shields of Strength as a way to bring encouragement through faith to our troops in the midst of their fierce battle.
To date, they have given hundreds of thousands of these tags to members of the U.S. Military, the families of fallen police officers, and first responders.
It would seem that a beloved source of encouragement and inspiration for thousands of military service members would be something everyone could agree on.
Sadly, that is not the case. The anti-faith activists in the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have decided to invent a problem where none exists.
Brazenly determined to scrub religion from the military, they recently complained to the Department of Defense about Shields of Strength and the religious messages inscribed on the tags—even though thousands of Shields of Strength have been graciously given to service members so they can find strength in their faith for over 20 years without any complaint.
Simply put, it’s a cruel insult to our men and women in uniform to deny them inspirational jewelry simply because it has a religious message.
Our service members love, want and have worn Shields of Strength for decades. That’s why we’re fighting to make sure this outside, anti-faith group doesn’t get away with such blatant religious discrimination.
It’s not going to happen on our watch—but it’s going to take all of us coming together to achieve victory in this fight.
Faith has a long history in America’s armed forces, and forcing Shields of Strength to pull its dog tags isn’t just harsh and unkind—it’s unlawful. The fact is, it’s perfectly constitutional for Americans who love their country to encourage military members with inspirational religious messages.
Please join us as we fight for the rights of our veterans and service members. They need YOUR support to help put a stop to the barrage of violations against their religious liberty—including their constitutional right to wear religious jewelry and find strength in their faith.