Howard Friedman is Professor of Law Emeritus at Toledo University, and he publishes a blog about the intersection of law and religion. His blog is named Religion Clause, and the blog’s byline is the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… –US Const., Amend. 1”
His latest post contains a troubling investigative report from ABC News about a defense contractor that has a contract for supplying 800,000 high powered rifle sights to the US Marine Corps and more for the army. The problem is that each rifle sight contains a Biblical reference, a coded citation to either 2nd Corinthians 4:6 or John 8:12 affixed to the end of each gun sight’s serial number.
It is unclear why the gun sight manufacturer chose these particular verses.
An overt Biblical reference included on any government ordered product is undoubtedly a violation of the establishment clause. Professor Friedman has a Sgt Joe Friday (Dragnet) style of writing (“Just the facts, ma’am”); thus, one is left to infer his legal opinion about the constitutionality of the practice from the mere fact that he published the post.
Blogger Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days is less subtle, and he writes less from a legal/constitutional point of view (although he agrees the practice is unconstitutional) than from his perspective as an Episcopal priest. Apparently, the company spokesman dismissed critics of the practice as “uppity ‘non-Christians’”. Gunn responds, “Well, this priest in Christ’s Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is outraged.”
Where to begin? Let’s start with practical matters. It will (rightly) inflame Muslims to learn that US military forces are fighting a war with equipment that contains references to the Bible … How can we have any credibility when we say we are not fighting a new crusade, while our forces use equipment that is marked with verses about following Jesus?
Continuing to speak as a priest, I am further outraged by the perversion of the faith to which I devote my life. Jesus surely wants us to share the Good News with the whole world, but not in the side of deadly weapons. More to the point, killing in Christ’s name violates every teaching of the Gospels. I might concede that war is a necessary evil, though I have strong pacifist leanings, but we can never imagine that we have God’s approval to fight wars. Every war, every weapon, and every death in battle represents a tragic sin. To mock Jesus Christ by stamping “the light of Christ” on a rifle scope is to engage in deadly blasphemy.
To lawyer Friedman, I say “Counselor, we join in your arguments. Your comments are incorporated herein by reference.” To Pastor Gunn, I say, “amen, brother.”