- (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
The Family Research Council issued a petition Monday over a ban on Bibles and religious materials at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Although Walter Reed, the military’s largest hospital for military personnel and veterans, says it lifted the ban on Friday after Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) gave a speech criticizing the move on the House floor, FRC says it’s not convinced.
FRC sent out an Action Alert stating, “While we're glad that hospital officials are working on changing the policy, the change has yet to be implemented. Given the recent track record of the Obama Administration's disrespect for religious liberty in the military, nothing is certain. We need your help to show military leaders that the American people will not stand for Bible bans such as the one at Walter Reed.”
FRC president Tony Perkins told The Christian Post Tuesday that in less than 24 hours after sending out the petition it has already garnered over 20,000 signatures. People are realizing this is not an isolated incident. We have increasingly seen “this type of action from this administration,” he said.
Last Thursday, FRC broke the news that the Navy issued new guidelines for friends and family visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. The FRC received an email from an Army officer regarding the new orders, found buried in a four-page document about patient care.
The memo, sent out by Walter Reed Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan, states, “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.”
In opposition, Rep. King, in his speech on Friday regarding the memo, said: “That means you can’t bring in a Bible and read from it when you visit your son or your daughter, perhaps – or your wife or husband. It means a priest that might be coming in to visit someone on their death bed couldn’t bring in the Eucharist, couldn’t offer Last Rites. This is the most outrageous affront.”
As soon as the memo was in FRC's hands, they took it to the Hill. After working with King, and talking with staff at Walter Reed, they were assured that the Navy was rescinding the policy.
Perkins said in talks with Walter Reed staff they were told the ban was originally placed on the Bibles because they were trying to cut down on materials and things being left behind by visitors. But to Perkins this is a weak argument, especially because the memo didn’t mention any other religious books besides the Bible.
Some members of Congress are meeting with Walter Reed staff to discuss the issue in more detail Tuesday. Perkins said they are determined to get to the bottom of why this memo was sent out, “who was responsible, why it happened and why we are seeing this type of activity taking place.”
FRC will continue gathering petitions and Perkins said they have contacted Walter Reed about providing language for them as they work toward putting something in writing to protect the religious freedom of the soldiers at the hospital. So far they haven’t heard back.