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Airman's Bible exiting; some see controversy

Oct. 8, 2012 - 07:49AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 8, 2012 - 07:49AM  |  
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If you've been eyeing that blue Airman's Bible with the Department of the Air Force seal etched on the cover, you might want to get it soon.

That's because once all the copies are sold, there won't be any more available.

Last year, the Air Force told B&H Publishing Group, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, that it no longer could put the service's official insignia on Holman Christian Standard Bibles.

The publishing group had similar permissions from the other service branches. Each Bible contains patriotic information, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, but also information customized to each service, such as the prayer of a fighter pilot.

After a review of existing vendor agreements, the Air Force discovered B&H Publishing had exceeded the scope of the original permission granted by it in 2003 and rescinded authority to use the insignia, service spokesman Joel Harper said. The other services also had given their permission in 2003 and they, too, withdrew permission for the Holman Bible last fall.

The Air Force is allowing the publishers of the Holman Bible to deplete existing stock through sales. But the controversy over the Bibles might not die down after that. The service branches have insisted that the reason the publishers can no longer produce the Bibles with their insignia has everything to do with trademark misuse and nothing to do with the Bible.

Not everyone is convinced. Air Force Sergeants Association CEO John "Doc" McCauslin said the Defense Department allows each service's insignia to be emblazoned on everything from trailer hitches to water bottles, and he questions what he sees as a restriction specifically for the Bible and, by extension, Christians.

McCauslin said such restrictions would appear to run counter to what the Air Force and the Army have done to emphasize comprehensive fitness programs that focus on physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual strength.

"Since other items sold in military retail stores include everything … with the DoD emblem on them, why the restriction on an item expressing religious [spiritual] freedom?" he said.

At least one Air Force chaplain has suggested that his congregants share their concerns with lawmakers.

Capt. Mark Hunsinger, chaplain with the 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., urged congregants in an email to make their voices heard "concerning the religious liberty issues … removal of bibles from military treatment facilities and discontinuing selling bibles in the [base exchange] with DoD insignia on it" by contacting members of Congress.

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