Coded references to biblical passages are inscribed on gunsights widely used by the US and British military in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has emerged.
The markings include „2COR4:6” and „JN8:12”, relating to verses in the books of Corinthians II and John.
Trijicon, the US-based manufacturer, was founded by a devout Christian, and says it runs to „Biblical standards”.
But military officials in the US and UK have expressed concern over the way the markings will be perceived.
The company has added the references to its sights for many years, but the issue surfaced only recently when soldiers complained to an advocacy group.
Versions of Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (Acog) are used by the US Special Operations Forces, the US Marine Corps and the US Army.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has just ordered 480 Acog sights for use on its new Sharpshooter rifles – to be used by troops in Afghanistan. Other versions of the Acog sight are „widely in service”, the ministry says.
The inscriptions are subtle and appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number.
John 8:12 reads: „When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The nod to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, found on the company’s Reflex sight, references the text: „For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
An MoD spokesman told the BBC the ministry appreciated the biblical references could cause offence and was talking to its supplier, but was „not aware at the time of purchase that these markings had any broader significance”.
The US Defense Department is a major customer of Trijicon’s, signing deals for $66m (£40.3m) of the company’s products in 2009 alone.
On 14 January, the MRFF received an e-mail, purportedly from a Muslim US Army infantryman, complaining about the markings.
„Many soldiers know of them and are very confused as to why they are there and what it is supposed to mean.”
The email adds: „Everyone is worried that if they were captured in combat that the enemy would use the Bible quotes against them in captivity or some other form of propaganda.”
MRFF president Mikey Weinstein says the inscriptions could give the Taliban and other enemy forces a propaganda tool.
„I don’t have to wonder for a nanosecond how the American public would react if citations from the Koran were being inscribed onto these US armed forces gunsights instead of New Testament citations,” he said.
The company states on its website: „We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”