(Photo: Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov)
The website for the Southern Baptist Convention was unblocked after a piece of malware briefly shut down access to www.SBC.net on some military installations this week. Some Christian activists had accused the Defense Department of blocking the site intentionally.
"In this case, security systems performed as expected in detecting a threat to DoD [Department of Defense] networks," Fox News quoted Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesperson, as saying.
"We determined that our web filters recently detected malware at the SBC website, which resulted in the block for some service members," Pickart said Friday, and clarified that the block was not die to "hostile" or religious content. "The department has verified that the Southern Baptist Convention website no longer contains malware that may pose a threat to our networks and will be unblocked today."
A DoD spokesperson had earlier said in an email to The Christian Post that the block was not intentional, and the department was 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 read. "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."
Concerns were raised because Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said earlier this month that he had 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.'"
A press release from the American Family Association, a group some army officer informed about the incident, had said the site was being blocked by "Team CONUS," the Continental U.S. Theater Network Operations and Security Center and Regional Computer Emergency Response Team.
The spokesperson also said in a phone interview with CP 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 earlier via email that the situation was "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."