More than two months after an ABC News report that rifle scopes used by U.S. soldiers are inscribed with secret Biblical references, troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are still carrying the so-called Jesus rifles – and the U.S. military says it could take a year to remove the Bible codes from all its weapons.
"Shame on them forever for their impossibly slow, plodding and utterly backwards plan for correction of this national and international disgrace," said Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Weinstein, whose advocacy group promotes the separation of church and state in the military, said the MRFF has received numerous messages from troops deployed in Afghanistan complaining that the Gospel inscriptions on Trijicon rifle scopes place them at added risk.
A military spokesperson also told ABC News that Biblical references had been removed from just over a third of the military's Trijicon scopes, but that most of the scopes that had been altered were being used by troops in training situations and on bases, not by troops in war zones.
Trijicon has sold an estimated 250,000 rifle scopes to the U.S. armed services, and the sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers.
The biblical references on Trijicon's Advance Combat Optical Guides, commonly known as ACOG sights, appear next to the model numbers in the same type font and size. References include citations from the New Testament books of Revelation, Matthew and John.
One of the citations on the ACOG is "JN8:12", a reference to John 8:12, which reads, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. "2COR4:6" is a reference to Second Corinthians 4:6, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Under what is known as "General Order Number One" U.S. military rules specifically prohibit "proselytizing of any faith, religion, or practice." The rules were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws," said Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer. "It allows the Mujahadeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they're being shot by Jesus rifles."
A worldwide furor erupted in January after the existence of the Bible codes was reported by ABC News. Countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and Great Britain, announced plans to remove the Bible codes from their Trijicon-supplied scopes.
At the time, the U.S. military said it had been unaware of the markings until notified of them by ABC News.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he was "very concerned" to learn of the Biblical markings on the Trijicon scopes. "Our mission is to protect the population we're serving and establish conditions for security, stability, and development, and we strive to do that while remaining sensitive to the cultural and religious norms of the populace we are supporting."