Following an ABC News report that thousands of gun sights used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with secret Bible references, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps said the Corps is 'concerned' and will discuss the matter with the weapons manufacturer.
"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 to ABC News. "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."
A spokesperson for the Army told ABC News that the Army was looking into the procurement "to see if anything is amiss here. We are still checking."
As ABC News reported Monday, the sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, 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.
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."
Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them.
Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian." The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.
On Monday, spokespeople for the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps both told ABC News their services were unaware of the biblical markings. On Tuesday, Redfield of CentCom told ABC News that the inscriptions did not violate the directive against proselytizing. "This does not constitute proselytizing because this equipment is not issued beyond the U.S. Defense Department personnel. It's not something we're giving away to the local folks."
But ABC News was able to find repeated references to the Biblical citations in on-line discussions of the gun sights. In August 2009, a poster named "Latex Ducky" tells other posters on a forum for firearm enthusiasts called "The Firing Line" about the inscriptions. "Here's something interesting: There should be a reference to a Bible verse on the base of the scope."
Back in 2006, on a self-described "Armageddon Forum," a number of users discuss the Bible references. "Seems there's a different verse on each model," writes Mr45auto. "They chose some whoppers too!"
After the Blotter's report Monday morning, the TPM Muckraker news Web site listed numerous references to the Trijicon Bible codes on-line dating back several years, including a January 2006 thread on a gaming forum that said "DoD contractor puts bible verses on it's (sic) products."
In May of 2006, a poster on Militaryphotos.net began a comment thread by asking, "Has anyone ever noticed the Bible verse on their ACOG sight?" Another user responds, "Yeah I read about that recently, but I didn't know there were than many different verses on all the different optics."
A video on YouTube that discusses the Bible verses had close to 20,000 views. "One of the really cool things that I like about this sight," says the maker of the video, is the Bible verse. "It says JN8:12. What that is is John 8:12."
"I love it. I love it. Yes, Trijicon, those guys are Christians. On all of their different sights they have verses on there."
"For those of you who aren't Christians, well, you know, get over it."
In another video, the same YouTube user notes the reference to Second Corinthians on a Trijicon scope.
"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.
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."
Weinstein said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of those who call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "a Crusade."
Retired Army Major General William Nash, now an ABC News consultant, said he had "no problem" with organizations providing Bibles and other religious tracts to U.S. troops. "But I do have a problem," said Nash, "with military equipment being labeled in a way where it seems like it's our god against their god."
Nash, who commanded the first brigade of the third armored division during Desert Storm in Iraq, said the Pentagon should make Trijicon remove the Bible codes from their sights.
Said Nash, "They should fix them all, they should do a modification on those sights and take off those inscriptions. And if they fail to do that they should be penalized."