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Kai Ryssdal: There is a long tradition in the American military of soldiers and sailors inscribing personal messages on their weapons. Whether its tanks or airplanes or the bombs that they drop. That is soldiers doing the inscribing, not manufacturers, which is why the Pentagon is scrambling to decide what to do about some gunsights it’s been buying for the Army and Marine Corps.
The sights work well enough. It’s what’s on them. what is written on them that’s the problem. Shorthand references to passages in the New Testament, like JN 8:12 for John chapter 8 verse 12. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman reports.
MITCHELL HARTMAN: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation says service members fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan started complaining about the gunsights a few weeks ago. They’re supplied under a $660 million contract by Michigan-based Trijicon, which identifies itself as Christian and “faith”-based.
The Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein.
MIKEY WEINSTEIN: To find these Biblical references actually engraved into the gunsights on our M4s and M16s is beyond the pale.
Weinstein says they also violate military rules against proselytizing in the Middle East. An Army spokesman said the Scriptural gunsights aren’t a problem because they’re for American soldiers, not Afghans or Iraqis who might be offended. And, he said, even the U.S. currency mentions God. Weinstein scoffs at that.
WEINSTEIN: It says, “In God We Trust.” It doesn’t say, “In Jesus We Trust.”
Cabrini College business professor Scott Testa says using Christianity in marketing isn’t unusual, though doing it on military weapons is.
SCOTT TESTA: You’ll have everything from real-estate agents, insurance agents, retailers, where they’ll actually quote Scriptures in their marketing materials.
The Marines say they’re reviewing the contract with Trijicon, as is the British government, which also bought gunsights with citations from the Gospels and Revelations.
I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.
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