Marketplace Scratch Pad

US soldiers carry "Jesus Rifles"

Scott Jagow Jan 20, 2010

The US military clearly violates at least one of the Ten Commandments all the time. But it turns out that some of the weapons being used to kill people have inscriptions from the Bible on them. As you might imagine, this has sparked quite a controversy.

It was first reported by ABC News. Watch the story here. The gun sights containing the Biblical passages are made by the Michigan company Trijicon. Trijicon has a $660 million contract with the Marines to provide “Brilliant Aiming Solutions.” The company’s Christian founder says he’s been putting the Bible references on his gun sights for years, like so:

Some reactions:

“It’s wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws,” said Michael “Mikey” Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state in the military.

Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they’ve told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as “spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ.”

Weinstein said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of those who call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “a Crusade.”

The US military actually has rules against proselytizing that were drawn up specifically for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are saying these inscriptions aren’t proselytizing because the guns are in the hands of US soldiers (as if weapons never change hands during a war).

Still, according to ABC, the military is looking into this:

“We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived,” Capt. Geraldine Carey, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, said in a statement to ABC News. “We will meet with the vendor to discuss future sight procurements.” Carey said that when the initial deal was made in 2005 it was the only product that met the Corps needs.

However, a spokesperson for CentCom, the U.S. military’s overall command in Iraq and Aghanistan, said he did not understand why the issue was any different from U.S. money with religious inscriptions on it.

Interesting point. Is it any different?

In addition to the church and state issues and the military possibly stoking Crusade talk, it seems fair to ask: How do you justify putting sayings from the Bible on a gun?

And if the military’s correct in saying that these sights are the best available, if it confiscates all the Jesus rifles, will the government be impairing the ability of American soldiers to get through the war alive? There are so many questions here.

We’ll have more on Marketplace tonight. Your thoughts?

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