A Michigan company that was engraving biblical citations on rifle sights manufactured for the U.S. military has agreed to end the practice after becoming the subject of media scrutiny.
ABC News in January reported that Trijicon, a firm based in Wixom, Mich., has for years been engraving citations from the New Testament on the rifle scopes. The company freely admitted the practice and at first defended it.
“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,’” reported ABC.
The network added, “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 was founded by a South African man named Glyn Bindon, whom ABC describes as a “devout Christian.” Tom Munson, the firm’s director of sales and marketing, told ABC the Bible references “have always been there” and initially dismissed the complaints about them raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), saying that the Foundation is “not Christian.”
MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein pointed out that the practice evokes echoes of the Crusades, with Western “Christian” armies facing off against the military might of Islam.
“It’s wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws,” Weinstein said. “It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles.”
Rob Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United, told the Detroit News, “We have to remember that our struggle in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t just against terrorism. It’s for the hearts and minds of the average people. If the average people in these countries get the impression that the United States is launching some type of new Crusade with the aim of converting the population to Christianity, we’re going to lose the hearts and minds.”
Trijicon was awarded a $660 million multi-year contract to provide rifle scopes to the U.S. military. The group’s religious bias is clear on its Web site, which reads, “We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”
The military was unaware of the engravings, but officials at first seemed nonchalant about the matter. Air Force Maj. John Redfield, the spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told the News, “This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency. Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”
But Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, gave the Associated Press another view, saying, “We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived.”
Carey said Marine Corps officials will meet with Trijicon to discuss the matter.
Military officials in New Zealand and Canada also expressed concerns about the scopes. The final blow came after Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command leader, criticized the firm’s actions.
“It is disturbing,” Petraeus said. “This is a serious concern to me and to the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan because it indeed conveys a perception that is absolutely contrary to what we have sought to do.”
Added Petraeus, “There’s a reason that we put people through cultural awareness training. I can assure you that there is much greater sensitivity among our troops about this sort of thing than apparently there is from the contractor.”
Trijicon officials agreed to stop using the Bible citations. They also said they would provide kits to modify existing sights.