(Photo: REUTERS / Omar Sobhani)
A U.S. Army officer who tried to access the Southern Baptist Convention's website on a government computer says he instead received a message indicating the site was blocked "due to hostile content."
According to a press release from the American Family Association, a group the officer informed about the incident, the message said SBC.net was being blocked by "Team CONUS," the Continental US Theater Network Operations and Security Center and Regional Computer Emergency Response Team.
A Defense Department spokesperson said in an email to The Christian Post that the block is not intentional, and the department is working to solve the issue "as quickly as possible."
"The Department of Defense strongly supports the religious rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC," the statement reads. "With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security."
The spokesperson also said in a phone interview that the site was not blocked for all personnel, but only for those at certain military installations, and that a number of factors could have contributed to the problem with the automated Internet filters.
Roger S. "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention relations for the SBC, told CP via email that the situation is "deeply disturbing" despite the government's assurance that the block was not set up intentionally.
"While the Defense Press Operations office of the US Army has assured us this is a random event with no malicious intent, the Army must run this to the ground to assure that this is the case," wrote Oldham. "If the government blocked any portion of the SBC.net Web site for any purpose, that would be an unconscionable breach of trust with the American public. The First Amendment exists to protect the church from governmental censorship of or infringement upon religious speech and the free exercise of religion."
Earlier this month, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va) said he has been monitoring religious discrimination complaints from service members for the last four years.
"It's been a steady attack on faith and religious freedom that we've seen in our military like we've never seen before," Forbes told Fox News. "We are getting a lot of calls from soldiers saying 'we're afraid of going to church, we're afraid to be seen praying, we're afraid that would hurt our careers, our promotions.'"
Forbes also questioned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about a number of military-related religious liberty issues during a House Armed Services Committee meeting earlier this month.