Donald Trump’s controversial “spiritual advisor” Robert Jeffress is once again under fire — but this time from the president’s own administration.
Hemant Mehta at Patheos’ The Friendly Atheist noted that in an ad for a sermon at his church, Jeffress featured the official seals for five branches of the U.S. military. Doing so is illegal, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation made the pastor’s gaffe abundantly clear in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on June 21.
“The display of these official seals by any non-federal entity is strictly prohibited according to the DoD guidance entitled “Important Information and Guidelines About the Use of Department of Defense Seals, Logos, Insignia, and Service Medals,” the letter read, “which clearly states the prominent prohibition regarding the seals used by First Baptist Dallas church.”
The ad for First Baptist Church in Dallas was for a special sermon titled “America is a Christian nation,” and a billboard bearing the same message has since been taken down.
Let me check with my rabbi. pic.twitter.com/6ODOXLB5Y2
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) June 6, 2018
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) officially requests that you expeditiously reach out to Robert Jeffress and/or his church to put an end to his illicit behavior in creating the impression that the U.S. Department of Defense is endorsing their tortured version of revisionist historical Christian primacy,” the letter continued.
On Friday, after receiving the same letter as Mattis, a spokesperson for First Baptist Dallas said the church would “honor our military this Sunday at our Celebrate Freedom services, as planned.” But late on Saturday night, Fox News’ Todd Starnes posted on his personal website about the Pentagon’s demand for the removal of the seals.
“The Pentagon has directed one of the nation’s largest churches to remove insignia representing the branches of the military from an upcoming freedom celebration after an atheist group complained,” the Fox host wrote.
“The Pentagon agreed [with MRFF] and sent a letter asking the church to remove the military graphics from the program,” Starnes wrote.
“We are concerned that use of the DoD Component marks creates an appearance of endorsement and or affiliation with your church’s Freedom Sunday, when that is not the case,” the Pentagon told Jeffress in a letter, as provided by Starnes. “Federal regulations prohibit the use of official military markings in ways that imply endorsement of a commercial entity or activity.”
“The Pentagon also said the church had unknowingly violated trademark licensing laws,” his post continued.