The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers at Fort Wainwright, an Army post in Interior Alaska adjacent to Fairbanks, to remove references to two Bible verses on their weapon scopes.
Michigan-based defense contractor Trijicon supplied the scopes, which referenced two New Testament passages, John 8:12 and Second Corinthians 4:6. The references appeared at the end of the scopes' serial numbers, Fox News reported.
Trijicon manufactures the scopes as part of a $660 million contract with the U.S. government, according to independent media site Opposing Views. Army spokesman Matthew Bourke told Fox News the inscriptions were added to the scopes without Army approval. Consequently, the scopes didn't meet the contract's requirements, he added. Bourke said the vendor agreed to remove all Bible references from future deliveries.
Soldiers at Fort Wainwright told Fox News they were ordered to hand over their scopes. Military personnel will file off the inscriptions and cover the area with black paint.
John 8:12 and Second Corinthians 4:6 respectively read:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
The Bible passages break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, among other predominantly Muslim countries.
The controversial "Jesus Rifles" raised concerns in 2010 when Trijicon initially delivered scopes to the Army as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. At that time, officials said they were unaware of the Biblical markings, and the vendor defended itself, stating the inscriptions had always been on the sights and there was nothing wrong or illegal about including them.
Nonetheless, the vendor agreed to voluntarily stop stamping the references on the scopes, Huffington Post reported. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command said in 2010 that the Trijicon sights didn't violate the government's rule and compared the citations on the sights to the "In God We Trust" inscription printed on U.S. currency.
Former Army Gen. David Petraeus disagreed and called the practice "disturbing."
"This is a serious concern to me and the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan," Petraeus told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Later, in a prepared statement, Petraeus said, "cultural and religious sensitivities are important considerations in the conduct of military operations."
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com