You know, 'secret Jesus codes'

Sound the alarm!

ABC News has found "Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes" in soldiers' weapons. By codes, they mean Bible references.

In all seriousness, an ABC News investigation found that a Michigan company that supplies rifle sights to the U.S. military and engraves Bible references on the base of its sights. The story is very interesting and well worth reporting, so kudos to the reporters who looked into this story.

Mistakes were made when someone wrote the headline: "U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes"

Since when are abbreviated Bible references "codes"? It reminds me of when someone thinks 'kids these days' use LOL or BRB to hide what they're really trying to say. I know it's hard to wrap your head around this, but even non-teenagers often use abbreviations to fit a reference or phrase in a small space. Someone has been reading too much Dan Brown lately.

And here's the deck to the article: "Pentagon Supplier for Rifle Sights Says It Has 'Always' Added New Testament References." Why the need to put "quotes" around "always"? This admission, though, suggests that there's no secret code being issued.

And if we're going with the "code" wording, how can they proselytize if it's "secret." This is one of my favorite comments on the article:

Way to compromise the "secret Jesus Bible code," ABC. Cryptologic insiders refer to these by the cover name "verses." Thanks to your utter disregard for Christian security, everybody is going to be able to decipher JN3:16. This could be devastating.

Overall, the story could be a good hook for a few angles. For example, I'm guessing that some Christians who could be horrified and consider it a misuse of Bible references. Instead, the story suggests the company could violate church/state laws. Here's what we know.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, 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.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

Okay, but could Bible references be considered proselytizing? Proselytizing means to induce someone to convert to one's faith. Does referencing a religion's text count? Perhaps it does, but what are the specifics of the military's rules?

"It's wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws," said Michael "Mikey" Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state in the military.

"But how?" should be the reporter's follow-up question.

"It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they're being shot by Jesus rifles," he said.

Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they've told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as "spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ."

He said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of "those who are calling this a Crusade."

Okay, but it still doesn't address the church/state issues he raised earlier. This is how the article ends:

"This is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country," said Weinstein. "It's literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we're fighting. We're emboldening an enemy."

Literally, huh? The reporters needed to challenge Weinstein to explain how it's a violation of church and state. Surely there are other church/state experts who can address this. Are there any who might consider them okay? Or perhaps a symbol like an ichthus be acceptable but a Bible reference would cross the line? Reporters need to move beyond soundbites for specifics.

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