Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes.
An ABC News report earlier this week revealed that the Michigan-based company, which has a contract to provide up to 800,000 scopes to the U.S. military, prints references to New Testament chapters and verses in code next to the model numbers of its scopes. The scopes are used by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by U.S. allies in those countries, and for the training of Afghan and Iraqi troops.
"Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate," said Stephen Bindon, Trijicon president and CEO in a statement. "We want to thank the Department of Defense for the opportunity to work with them and will move as quickly as possible to provide the modification kits for deployment overseas."
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Department of Defense "applauds the voluntary actions announced today by Trijicon."
Morrell said the coded Bible reference were clearly inappropriate. Said Morrell, "It is not the policy of the Department of Defense to put religious references of any kind on its equipment."
Earlier today, Gen. David Petraeus, who commands CentCom, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, told a D.C. thinktank that the company's practice was "disturbing …and a serious concern for me" and field commanders. He said there had been considerable discussions within the Department of Defense about how to deal with Trijicon's practice.
The Trijicon statement said that the company would: "Remove the inscription reference on all U.S. military products that are in the company's factory that have already been produced, but have yet to be shipped" and "Provide 100 modification kits to forces in the field to remove the reference on the already forward deployed optical sights."
The company also said it would ensure future procurements from the Department of Defense are produced without scripture references,a nd offer foreign forces that have purchased the products "the same remedies."
Haris Tarin, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a civil-rights group, said his organization welcomed the announcement. Said Tarin, "We must ensure that incidents like these are not repeated, so as not to give the impression that our country is involved in a religious crusade, which hurts America's image abroad and puts our soldiers in harms way."
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Trijicon had made a "responsible move ... that will help reduce or eliminate a potential danger to our nation's military."
The New Zealand military and the Australian military have already announced their plans to remove the inscriptions from their Trijicon scopes. The British military had also expressed concern about the codes.
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.