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."
New Zealand, Australia to Remove Bible Codes from Guns
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.
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 photo on a Department of Defense Web site shows Iraqi soldiers being trained by U.S. troops with a rifle equipped with the bible-coded sights.
One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as "the light of the world." John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
"It's wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws," said Michael "Mikey" Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state in the military.
"It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they're being shot by Jesus rifles," he said.
Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they've told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as "spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ."
He said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of "those who are calling this a Crusade."