The decision of a Michigan manufacturer to remove coded references to New Testament verses from the rifle sights that it sells to U.S Marines and Army for use in Iraq and Afghanistan is winning praise from Muslims and Atheists.

Trijicon, which has a $660 million contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marines, has long inscribed its products with codes such as 2COR4:6, an apparent reference to a passage from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"


Military officials said they were unaware of the inscriptions when they were revealed this week by ABC News.

"This is a serious concern to me and the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command. In a statement issued by CENTCOM, Petraeus said "cultural and religious sensitivities are important considerations in the conduct of military operations."

Trijicon announced that it would remove the codes.

American Atheists President Ed Buckner, who had warned that Islamic extremists could take advantage of what he called "a major blunder that seriously risks efforts to reach out to people in Muslim countries threatened by groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda," praised the decision to remove them.

"By eliminating these 'Christian crusader' references, we are no longer handing al Qaeda and other Islamic religious fanatics a priceless propaganda vehicle," he said.

Added Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council for American-Islamic Relations: "This is a responsible move by Trijicon that will help reduce or eliminate a potential danger to our nation's military."

Kathleen Johnson, military director for American Atheists, wondered why this issue even came up."The military has strict rules in place to prohibit actions that make it appear as if US Forces are proselytizing or are crusading against the Muslim faith" said Johnson. "There were apparently no controls or oversight here, as tens of thousands of these 'Christian rifle sights' were being sold at public expense and distributed in theaters of operation."

She called for more explicit regulations, including a requirement that any materials purchased by the Department of Defense be "religion-free and neutral," and demanded that senior leaders within the military ensure the imprinted bible citations are removed.

"We cannot have a situation where individual commanders elect to keep the imprinted bible citations and the only way to prevent that is to make leaders accountable for compliance," she said.