Responding to the controversy over Biblical inscriptions on military rifle scopes in Iraq and Afghanistan, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command told the AP, “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?”
In an interview with ABC, the spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield, argued that the inscriptions on Trijicon rifle scopes do not violate the military’s ban on 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.”
A few points here: The scopes may not be distributed to locals, but they are used by Iraqi trainees, as Pentagon pictures show (see image to left). And what about American servicemembers who are not Christian? Finally, since the scopes reference passages in the New Testament, a better analogy would be if currency bore the motto “In Jesus We Trust.” That’s not to mention the symbolic weight of guns versus currency.
Meanwhile, in a markedly different response to the matter, Marines spokesperson Geraldine Carey said in a statement: “We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived. We will meet with the vendor to discuss future sight procurements.”
We asked Carey when Marines leadership or procurement officials knew about the Trijicon inscriptions — given that they had been discussed at length by gun enthusiasts online. She said “this was brought to our attention last week.”
Here’s Carey’s full statement:
The manufacturer of rifle optics, purchased by the US Marine Corps and US Army, stamped onto the equipment, within their own equipment control tracking number, an alphanumeric combination that has within it a short-hand reference to a biblical verse. The optics manufacturer is Trijicon, Inc. The initial procurement in 2005 was in response to an urgent need for a magnified optic that provided low light illumination without a battery. This was the only commercial sight that met that requirement. The Marine Corps keeps accountability of our systems via the serial number, our own part number, and National Stock Number, and does not use Trijicon’s markings for any purpose, including purchase, tracking, or management of the systems. We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived. We will meet with the vendor to discuss future sight procurements.
Late Update: The AP reports the Army is now probing whether Trijicon violated procurement rules.