Trijicon Offers to Remove Bible References from Sights

Trijicon, the maker of the gun sight that has a Bible reference on it, has volunteered to remove the references and cease marking future sights to be used by the US and foreign governments.  It will also provide free kits to remove the markings from those sights that have already been deployed.  The company issued a press release that was picked up by Fox, CNN, and other news organizations.

The offer to pre-empt an official call for their removal, while unexpected, is actually an excellent public relations decision both from a business and faith perspective.  It avoids a “confrontation” over contracts and religious controversy, and it permits Trijicon to be viewed as both forthright and amenable to its customer, even if it does not have to be.  While some Christians in similar situations may dig their heels in, there is no moral imperative that requires Trijicon to refuse to accede to the feelings of its customer.  Their offer alleviates the concerns of the military and diffuses the public scandal.

For its part, the stern government reaction (as noted by General Petraeus, at least) undermines those who have claimed this was an unConstitutional collusion to promote Christianity.  US and foreign government officials have repeatedly said that the sights, which were bought commercially “off the shelf” (known as “COTS”), were purchased without any knowledge that they had any religious reference on them.  Instead, they were purchased because they had the reputation for being an outstanding piece of equipment.

Thus, Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation can, in some part, claim victory for ‘forcing’ the ‘government’ to remove the references from its sights.  It is a somewhat hollow victory, however, because while the MRFF capitalized on the publicity, Michael Weinstein insisted on making unsupported accusations that someone violated the Constitution and federal law.  As those accusations are now demonstrably unsubstantiated, Weinstein can celebrate the result, but is also left looking foolish for making his usual grandiose accusations.

Despite this and Trijicon’s response, Weinstein continued to make wild and unsupported accusations (which, ironically, have not been carried by the press):

Trijicon’s outrageous practice of placing bible verse citations on military-issued gunsights for weapons was an unconstitutional disgrace…It is nothing short of a vile national security threat that…our military and its contractors time again [sic] resort to unlawful fundamentalist evangelical Christian practices, even on the battlefield.

As already pointed out, Weinstein continually contradicts himself about whether or not Trijicon, as a private company, can “violate” the Constitution.  (For those that don’t remember, the Constitution restricts only the government.)  While that double-speak was expected, it was shocking to see Weinstein denigrate the US military by accusing it of taking part in a “national security threat,” particularly since he has provided no evidence to support that statement.

Finally, Weinstein continues to display a bias against Christians as he, once again, has produced no evidence that fundamentalism or evangelical Protestantism played any part in this incident.  However, this is consistent with Weinstein’s practice to date of assigning a Christian label to someone based on his definitions.  Thus, regardless of the actual theological beliefs of the persons involved, Michael Weinstein has made the unilateral decision that they are “fundamentalist evangelical Christian[s].”  For someone who so often relies on examples of historic religious prejudice, he doesn’t seem averse to demonstrating it himself.

Trijicon has reportedly produced impressive weapons accessories for years.  It has also included Biblical references on those products for decades.  The US military, and those of foreign nations, purchased those products for their renowned reputation.  Though there is no evidence of any public complaint before today, Trijicon took the ‘high road’ and offered to remove the references.

Despite Michael Weinstein’s delusional conspiracy theories, there is no evidence that it was a surreptitious effort by either Trijicon or the US government to do anything other than provide US Soldiers with the best equipment available.  Though the intensity of the negative reaction, even by US military leaders, was disappointing, Trijicon ultimately made an admirable decision that reflected well both on its business practice and its faith.


CNS News now carries a slightly tongue-in-cheek article covering Weinstein’s latest unsupported accusations, and includes the comment:

Thanks to the MRFF, the obscure sets of numbers and letters like 2COR4:6 and JN8:12 are now widely known to refer to New Testament verses.

A Washington Post “On Faith” column written by Michael Kessler debunks Weinstein’s claim of violations of federal law and the Constitution.

Update, 28 March 2010:

A military blog shows pictures of the references being removed, as well as the final product.


  • Looks like money trumped principle. The reference to Bible passages never should have been on govt issued weapons to begin with.

    The company made the right decision to stop the practice, and all without a big fuss.

  • “US and foreign government officials have repeatedly said that the sights, which were bought commercially “off the shelf” (known as “COTS”),”

    JD, where has this been said. ALL of the reports that I read, said the weapons were procured under contract – contracts that began in 2005 and steadily increased to present.

  • Looks like money trumped principle.

    For the uninitiated, this is a good example of the logical fallacy known as a “straw man.”

    COTS products are “procured under contract,” so what you have read does not disagree with the statements above.

    The relationship between Trijicon and the military goes back decades, not just to 2005, so you may need to expand your search volume.

  • Commercial-off-the-shelf and ‘contract’ are not mutually exclusive. COTS means that the government is looking for an item without any military specific modifications. Contract procurement just means that the government was in negotiation with the company (and probably other of similar capabilities) to buy the scopes.

    Another example of COTS under contract is a squadron buying new printers. If the purchase is over a modest amount then many companies can bid for the buy but it’s not like HP changes their product line to meet military specs.

    Finally, why should there be no references on military weapons? You make a statement, but no argument.

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  • Thanks for the clarification on COTS, but I’m still waiting for a reference as to where this – “US and foreign government officials have repeatedly said that the sights, which were bought commercially “off the shelf” – has been said. I’ve only seen you say it, JD.

    There should be no references to Bible verses on military equipment because it would amount to endorsement. That’s my argument. Our military is not comprised of Christians only, and the scopes are/were being used to train Iraqi and Afghan soldiers.

  • The phrase beginning with “which” is known as an apposition, a grammatical tool in which one phrase is used to amplify or expound upon another. The phrase set off by commas in the sentence you quote modifies the subject “the sights;” it is not a direct object of the verb “said.”

    Your understanding of the sentence would have been written “…officials have repeatedly said that the sights […] were bought commercially “off the shelf”… That is not what the sentence says.

    I realize the sentence has a complex construction; however, you are misreading it.

    Your understanding of endorsement would also dictate that the US government is endorsing Trijicon, since the Trijicon name is present on the government equipment. Federal endorsement of commercial vendors is also prohibited. Are you making that accusation?

  • Clap, clap, clap. What an excellent NON-answer, JD. Sometimes the use of subtle condescension (almost) makes it possible for an audience to believe a question has been answered, when, in fact, it hasn’t.

    I’m not misreading the sentence, JD. I’m asking you to show me where it has been demonstrated that the scopes were COTS, that there were no modifications to the commercial product done specifically for the military, and per contract provisions. I have only seen “unofficial” folks, you and other bloggers, make the statement that the scopes were COTS.

    I apologize if my quotation of your complex sentence confused you.

    I did not make any accusations, JD. Careful, there. I simply clarified my argument per Dealer’s request. Leaving references to Christian Bible verses on military equipment would amount to an endorsement of Christianity.

  • I appreciate the clarification of your question. To most with a casual understanding of the military acquisition system, the supposition that the Trijicon acquisition was COTS is readily apparent. That is likely why you see so many “unofficial” conclusions.

    Here is one example of an answer to your question. It is an official announcement of the contract award to Trijicon for a sight for the M249. The text is unedited:

    Trijicon, Inc.*, Wixom, Mich., is being awarded a $33,000,000 not-to-exceed ceiling firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for the procurement, delivery, maintenance, and logistical support of the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) Day Optic (SDO). The SDO is a magnified day optic that mounts onto the M249 Light Machine Gun. The SDO is to aid the SAW gunner in target detection, recognition, and identification, thereby increasing the combat effectiveness and lethality of the user. This contract is a five-year contract with a not-to-exceed value of $33,000,000, with a minimum buy of 25 SDO systems within the first contract year. Work will be performed in Wixom, Mich., and is expected to be completed by five years from date of contract award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with proposals solicited via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with three offers received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-D-1014).

    I have found similar documentation for several of the recent contracts. You’ll note that the contract covers “procurement, delivery, maintenance, and logistical support.” I have found none that include anything about design, development, testing, prototyping, or modification. This is consistent with Trijicon’s statements that it invented the technology and independently produced the sights, and the military subsequently purchased them.

    That is precisely what COTS is.

    Your intense interest in whether or not COTS is at play seems to indicate you think it has merit in the now-diffused controversy. Since the sight was purchased COTS, what impact do you believe that has on this situation?

    Leaving references to Christian Bible verses on military equipment…

    That is a somewhat prejudicial statement, as some of the verses are shared by the Jewish faith.

    You carefully avoided the root of my question. You choose not to accuse the government of endorsing Trijicon, but there is no substantial difference between the imprints of text on the sights. Ignoring your mistake that two religious faiths are actually “endorsed,” how is the presence of the Trijicon name on the sight not an endorsement of their company?