Nightline’s Brian Ross on Monday filed a hyperbolic report on "secret Jesus codes" that are on the sights of rifles used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Ross featured two voices highly critical of the fact that Bible versus can be found on these weapons, but no clip of the opposing side. Ross repeated, "Michael Weinstein runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which claims thousands of members in the US military who he says are endangered by the secret Bible codes."
On the MRFF website, the organization trumpets, "MRFF breaks major news story." Ross featured Weinstein in four separate clips, but never once mentioned whether he was fed the information, nor does he note the harshly anti-religious tone of the group. The website currently touts this fund-raising pitch: "The wall separating church and state in the U.S. military has collapsed. MRFF desperately needs you to Help Build The Wall!"
Ross also highlighted retired Major General William Nash. Summarizing the opinion of Trijicon, the gun company that produces the rifle, Ross explained, "The Trijicon spokesman said there was nothing wrong or illegal about adding the Biblical references to the military sights." Then, instead of allowing viewers to actually hear from the company, he included this clip from Nash: "But I find something wrong with it and I think our government should find something wrong with it."
Ross described the "secret" code: "...The sights on their gun, including this one used to train soldiers in Iraq, contain a secret coded reference to New Testament passages about Jesus Christ. Here, JN 8:12, a reference to the Book of John, 8:12, which reads in part, ‘Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying I am the light of the world.’"
The reporter proceeded to expand the topic into other examples of a "clash in the U.S. military over Christian symbols and preaching in Iraq and Afghanistan." He added, "Two years ago in Afghanistan, American documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes saw boxes of New Testament Bibles published in Afghan languages."
ABC managed to allow comment from Trijicon in its online story. Wouldn’t it only be fair for Brian Ross to have done that on Nightline?
A transcript of the January 18 segment, which aired at 11:45pm EST, follows:
MARTIN BASHIR: It was during his first overseas tour as president to the Muslim country of Turkey that Barack Obama said the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam, which is why our next story is provoking so much controversy. It concerns inscriptions that refer to biblical texts on weapons being deployed by American forces. Here's our Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross. Brian?
BRIAN ROSS: Martin, to prevent the suspicion, the United States is conducting a Christian crusade against Muslims, members of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan are strictly prohibited from proselytizing, promoting any religion, faith or practice. It's called General Order One. But apparently one of the Pentagon's big suppliers never got the memo. Some soldiers call them Jesus rifle. That's because the sights on their gun, including this one used to train soldiers in Iraq, contain a secret coded reference to New Testament passages about Jesus Christ. Here, JN 8:12, a reference to the Book of John, 8:12, which reads in part, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying I am the light of the world."
MICHAEL WEINSTEIN (MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION): They know it's wrong and it's not just wrong. It's an outrage.
ROSS: Michael Weinstein runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which claims thousands of members in the U.S. military who he says are endangered by the secret Bible codes.
WEINSTEIN: It is a big deal. We've had many, many soldiers reach out to us. Some are oblivious but many, many others, in the thousands, aware well aware that it's there. They described it as a sick and a very scary joke and that it allows the Mujahadin, the Taliban, al Qaeda, the insurrectionists and Jihadists to be claiming that they're being shot by Jesus rifles.
ROSS: Others sights have references to the New Testament Books of Matthew, Revelation and the Corinthians such as this scope used by Special Forces encoded with another reference to a verse about the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The rifle sights are produced by the Trijicon Company of Wixom, Michigan which has at most $1 billion in Pentagon contracts. A company spokesman says its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian, began the practice years ago and it has continued since Bindon's death in 2003. The Trijicon spokesman said there was nothing wrong or illegal about adding the Biblical references to the military sights.
MG WILLIAM NASH (RET): Well, that's fine. But I find something wrong with it and I think our government should find something wrong with it.
ROSS: Retired Major General William Nash commanded the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Armor Division during Desert Storm in Iraq. He is now an ABC News consultant.
NASH: There's a lot of organizations that provide Bibles to soldiers and Torah and other, and even copies of the Koran are given out to our soldiers. I have no problem with that. But I do have problems with military equipment being labeled in such a way that it seems like it's our God against their God.
ROSS: General Nash says the Pentagon should make the company remove the biblical codes.
NASH: They should fix them all. They do a modification on the sights and take off those inscriptions. And, and if they fail to do that, they should be penalized monetarily.
ROSS: At the Pentagon, the Army and the Marines told ABC News they were unaware of the biblical codes until we contacted them.
GUN REVIEWER (YOUTUBE VIDEO): One of the really cool things that I like about this sight.
ROSS: But on gun enthusiast and military websites, the presence of the New Testament references seem well known, as this gun reviewer pointed out the passage from the Book of Job.
GUN REVIEWER: I love it. I love it. Yes, Trijicon, those guys are Christians and, you know, they, they're just - on all of their different sights, they have verses on there. So just a little neat side note. And for those of you who aren't Christians, well you know, whatever, get over it. All right, so anyway.
WEINSTEIN: We received information just very recently from one of our clients indicating that the rifle was referred to as the spiritually transformed firearm of Jesus Christ.
ROSS: Even with the general order against religious proselytizing, the Biblical references on the rifle sights is only the latest example of a clash in the US military over Christian symbols and preaching in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two years ago in Afghanistan, American documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes saw boxes of New Testament Bibles published in Afghan languages.
BRIAN HUGHES (DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER): It was clear that those Bibles were there for the purpose of being distributed to the Afghan people, not to other soldiers, not to other people on the base but to Afghan civilians. So it was clear that they were prepared to operate outside the boundaries of General Order One.
ROSS: Filmmaker Hughes recorded US Army Chaplain Gary Hensley in a provocative sermon at Baghram Air Base.
LTC GARY HENSLEY (US ARMY CHAPLAIN): You know, the Special Forces guys, they hunt men basically. We do the same as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. Hunt them down. Gets the hound of heaven after them. So we get them in the kingdom. Right? That's what we do. That's our business.
ROSS: Now the tiny Biblical codes on the U.S. military rifle sights used by the Army and the Marines as tiny as they are, seem certain to raise the issues again.
WEINSTEIN: We're training the Iraqis and the Afghans, the members of the military on these very same weapons. They're training on weapons with biblical references from the New Testament on there. It's unbelievable. This is how we're going to win friends.
ROSS: It's not known precisely how many of the rifle sights with the secret Bible codes are now in use by the military. But the Trijicon Company just received a $660 million contract to be the sole supplier to the US Marine Corps and its sights are the preferred choice of the US Special Forces. As of tonight, the military was still trying to figure out what if anything it plans to do about that. Martin?