WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand's defense force said Thursday that Biblical citations on markings on weapon sights used by its troops in Afghanistan will be removed.
Going to war in Afghanistan with Biblical citations stamped on their weapons is not appropriate for New Zealand soldiers, said defense force spokesman Maj. Kristian Dunne.
U.S. manufacturer, Trijicon of Wixom, Michigan, would be instructed to remove the inscriptions on further orders of the gun sights and the letters would be removed from gun sights already in use by New Zealand troops, he said.
The Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight rifle sights supplied by Trijicon and used by New Zealand troops carry references to Bible verses that appeared in raised lettering at the end of the sight stock number.
Markings included "JN8:12", a reference to John 8:12: "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,"' according to the King James version of the Bible.
The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "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," the King James version reads.
The markings are also on sights used by U.S. and British troops.
Maj. Dunne said like other nations, New Zealand's military had been caught unawares.
"The inscriptions ... put us in a difficult situation. We were unaware of it and we're unhappy that the manufacturer didn't give us any indication that these were on there," he said. "We deem them to be inappropriate."
New Zealand's defense force had about 260 of the company's gun sights, which were first bought in 2004, Dunne said, and soldiers would continue using them because they were the best of their kind.
New Zealand Defense Minister Wayne Mapp said the Bible references could be misconstrued.
"New Zealand soldiers are in the Middle East. We all know of the religious tensions around this issue and it's unwise to do anything that could be seen to raise tensions in an unnecessary way."
Trijicon said it has been longstanding company practice to put the Scripture citations on the equipment. Tom Munson, Trijicon's director of sales and marketing, said the company has never received any complaints until now.
"We don't publicize this," Munson said in a recent interview. "It's not something we make a big deal out of. But when asked, we say, 'Yes, it's there."'
Trijicon said biblical references were first put on the sites nearly 30 years ago by the company founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon's president, continued the practice.