After an ABC News report that secret Bible messages are encoded on gun sights used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least two other countries that also use the equipment in Afghanistan are now considering what action to take.
A spokesperson for New Zealand's Defence Force told the New Zealand newspaper The Press that the coded citations on Trijicon scopes were "inappropriate" and would be removed. A spokesperson for Britain's Ministry of Defence told the BBC that the ministry was contacting Trijicon, was unaware of the markings at time of purchase, and understood that the markings might be considered offensive.
Major Kristian Dunne of the New Zealand Defence Force said his country's military was unaware of the Bible references and "unhappy" to learn of them from the media.
"It's put us in an uncomfortable situation," Dunne told The Press. "We can see how they would cause offense." Dunne said that in addition to removing the codes from its 260 existing scopes, New Zealand would ask Trijicon to remove the code from future weapons
According to the BBC, the British military recently ordered 480 Trijicon ACOG sights, and is already using versions of the ACOG sight.
As ABC News reported Monday, Michigan-based Trijicon has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
The sights are used by U.S. troops and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The model numbers inscribed on the scopes include coded references to New Testament verses.
U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.
A Marine Corps spokesperson told ABC News Tuesday that the Corps was concerned about the markings and considering what action to take. "We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived," Capt. Geraldine Carey, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, said in a statement. "We will meet with the vendor to discuss future sight procurements." Carey said that when the initial deal was made in 2005 it was the only product that met the Corps needs.
However, a spokesperson for CentCom, the U.S. military's overall command in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he did not understand why the issue was any different from U.S. money with religious inscriptions on it.
"The perfect parallel that I see," said Maj. John Redfield, spokesperson for CentCom, told ABC News, "is between the statement that's on the back of our dollar bills, which is 'In God We Trust,' and we haven't moved away from that."
Said Redfield, "Unless the equipment that's being used that has these inscriptions proved to be less than effective for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and military folks using it, I wouldn't see why we would stop using that."