Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

US firm to remove Biblical references on gunsights

British soldier uses the new Advanced Combat Optical Sight
Soldiers are concerned the markings could put them at risk if captured

A US military contractor has said it will stop engraving Biblical references on rifles used by the US army.

The markings, in the form of coded references, have been appearing on products made by the US firm Trijicon, based in Michigan, for decades.

But on Thursday, US military chief Gen David Petraeus, said the practice of scripture references was "disturbing" and "a serious concern".

The firm also sells the gunsights to Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

The inscriptions - which include "2COR4:6" and "JN8:12", relating to verses in the books of II Corinthians and John - appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number.

The company pledged to remove the inscription reference on all products destined for the US military yet to be shipped and ensure all future procurements from the department of defence are produced without scripture references.

Religious sensitivities

It also said it would provide 100 modification kits to forces in the field to remove the references.

"Trijicon has proudly served the US military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate," the firm, founded by a devout Christian, said in a statement released on Friday.

The references - first reported on by ABC News - had raised concerns that they broke US rules barring troops proselytising in the predominantly Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are widely used by both the US and British military.

Gen Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, said: "Cultural and religious sensitivities are important considerations in the conduct of military operations."

In a letter sent to the US president on Thursday, the head of the Interfaith Alliance said the gunsights "clearly violate" the rule.

"Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses," Welton Gaddy said.

Earlier in the week, the Church of England told the UK's Guardian newspaper: "People of all faiths and none are being killed and injured in these ­conflicts, on all sides, and any suggestion that this is being done in the name of the Bible would be deeply worrying to many ­Christians."

On Thursday, New Zealand's defence ministry said it was in talks with Trijicon about the best way to remove the markings without damaging the sights.

Australia too is reportedly assessing how best to respond.

Print Sponsor

NZ to lose gun-sight Bible marks
21 Jan 10 |  Americas
Military concern at 'Jesus sight'
20 Jan 10 |  Americas

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific