Gunsights with religious references to be yanked

Jan 22 2010

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Gunsights with biblical references inscribed on them are being used by Canadian special forces in Afghanistan, but the military plans to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Militaries around the world, including Canada’s, were caught off guard by the news that U.S. manufacturer Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., had put biblical citations on many gunsights in use by forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One type of Trijicon gunsight has raised markings saying simply JN8:12. That is a reference to the Book of John, Chapter 8, verse 12.

In the King James Version of the Bible, that citation reads: “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.’ ”

Another Trijicon sight has the inscription 2COR4:6, a reference to the passage from Corinthians Book 2, Chapter 4, verse 6: “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.”

Until recently, military leaders were unaware of the significance of the abbreviations.

But since their meaning has become known, Trijicon has been facing a growing backlash from the countries it has supplied with the sights. Military leaders have raised concerns that the inscriptions could provide propaganda ammunition for Islamic insurgents.

Maj. Doug MacNair, a spokesman for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, said the organization has a limited number of the sights with the references. CANSOFCOM includes the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 special forces unit and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment from Petawawa. Both units are in Afghanistan.

For security reasons, Canada won’t release the number or type of Trijicon sights it has.

MacNair said: “Like our allies, we consider the biblical inscriptions to be inappropriate. We’ll move as quickly as possible to rectify the situation.”

CANSOFCOM technicians are looking at how to remove the inscriptions without damaging the sights. Those gunsights being used by special forces in the field would also be dealt with in some way, but CANSOFCOM has to ensure that, whatever solution is found, the soldiers continue to have access to the equipment.

“You do want to move as quickly as you can while not jeopardizing mission effectiveness,” MacNair said.

However, Trijicon announced Thursday it would provide modification kits at no cost to remove the Scripture citations from gunsights already in use. There are more than 300,000 Trijicon sights in use by U.S. forces.

One religious leader in the U.S. wrote President Barack Obama to complain that the sights violated a U.S. government rule against proselytizing.

“Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses,” wrote Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Other serving U.S. military members complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about the gunsights.

“This is a serious concern to me and the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said Thursday in Washington.

On Thursday, New Zealand’s military announced it, too, would remove the markings. It has also ordered Trijicon to remove such inscriptions from future orders.

Australia is considering a similar request.

Trijicon has been putting the scripture citations on its sights for years and company officials said they had never received any complaints. However, Tom Munson, the firm’s sales director, has acknowledged the company did not publicize the practice.

Ottawa Citizen

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


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