It’s printed on our dollars, in ink that runs as deep as the currency itself. It’s preached in our pledge of allegiance, mixed in with words like “the republic,” “liberty” and “justice.” It’s embedded in voter mentality, regardless of promises for ideological objectivity. Yet still we deny religion’s attachment to our country’s credos, ones where the “American way” and religious affiliations are far too close for comfort.
But what of the weapons? The ones we use in the name of democracy, hoping they will blow peace through the streets of tattered towns? Surely there is separation there. No — on Jan. 18, coded references to select New Testament passages were found inscribed on high-power rifle scopes sent to the U.S. Military.
Trijicon, the Michigan-based company that manufactures the scopes, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
However, U.S. Military rules specifically prohibit the representation or promotion of any religion, in an attempt to separate American wars on terror from religious crusades. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, however, claims that “there is nothing wrong or illegal with adding them,” stating that the inscriptions “have always been there.”
Furthermore, the company’s vision, according to their mission statement, has always been guided by their values in an effort to protect individual freedoms, ignoring the First Amendment principle of a separation between church and state.
“We believe that America is great when its people are good,” the company’s website reads. “This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals.”
The rapid backlash against Christian fundamentalism has now hit a literal high, with Trijicon’s beliefs etched onto weapons that preach power over the people. Through this, they speak on behalf of the American ideology — that of the citizens, the soldiers and, most alarmingly, the war itself.
We are embedded in a war that has the aura of a now-defunct administration all around it. Our image, our goals, our nation have been represented as aggressors, and beyond the distant citizens, it’s the soldiers on the front lines who are being most mishandled and misrepresented. To ask them to risk their lives in the name of a war being branded with religious ideologies is an appalling revelation — one that requires immediate restoration.
Spokespeople for the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps both said their services were unaware of the biblical markings, stating publicly “it is not the policy of the Army or the Department of Defense to put religious references of any kind on its equipment.” And Trijicon has already removed a majority of the Bible verses, even going so far as to send kits with tools to remove the lettering on the existing weapons.
But the damage is already done. The Muslim Public Affairs Council has publicly stated that this will only further the extremists who believe that the United States is simply carrying out a religious crusade in Asia and the Middle East. And Al Jazeera reports that the scopes have already been distributed to Afghan soldiers with the intention of providing the Taliban with further propaganda.
Though how can we call it propaganda on behalf of the Taliban when the reality is that the military has been purchasing these scopes for years? And while they claim to have never known about the embedded verses, what this marks is yet another in a long line of religious and governmental violations.
To turn this war — one already bathed in controversy and misinformation — into a battle of religious zealots furthers the already-tarnished image of our country overseas. Misrepresenting information abroad, misrepresenting American citizens, misrepresenting the soldiers put in harm’s way — verses once meant to guide, once meant to give clarity to their devout believers, are instead being utilized as war tactics, leaving any hope for true separation between religion and government as only achievable through a miracle.