By many accounts, anti-faith sentiment has been working its way into the U.S. military this year. While the examples are anecdotal, they are collectively creating some angst in religious circles.
Atheists are battling over a cross that was placed at Camp Pendleton in California, there is a continued push for non-believing chaplains, a cross has been removed from an interfaith military chapel in Afghanistan and the U.S. Air Force Academy backed out of a toy drive (because it's sponsored by a Christian group). And these are just a few of the examples.
Now, those who are worried about the continued erosion of faith and values in the U.S. military have another example to add to their roster. Fox News' Todd Starnes is reporting that the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center implemented a policy that prevented family members of wounded military soldiers from bringing Bibles and other religious materials to their loved ones.
The policy was apparently set in a memorandum from the medical center's commander, Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan. On September 14, the guidelines were issued for "wounded, ill, and injured partners in care." It states, “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."
This policy -- which led Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to give an impassioned speech on the House floor asking the president to intervene -- has now been overturned. But the fact that it was implemented in the first place only adds fuel to the fire when it comes to questions about the military's take on faith.
Watch King discuss the military's handing of faith issues, below:
In an interview with Fox News & Commentary, King said, “The President of the United States should address this and should excoriate the people who brought about this policy and the individual who brought it about should be dismissed from the United States Military." He continued:
“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.”
Sandy Dean, a public affairs official for Walter Reed, says that the policy will be re-written to "articulate" the center's "initial intention which was to respect religious and cultural practices of our patients." Dean claims that there was never an intent to prevent family members from providing religious materials to patients.
Still, many people see these explanations as excuses. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is joining King in asking for whoever was responsible for the memo to be fired.
“It cannot be allowed to stand. It must be rescinded and the people responsible for perpetrating it should be fired," Land said. “They claim to be tolerant but this is as intolerant as you can be – to not allow wounded soldiers to have religious artifacts."
It will be interesting to see how the medical center clarifies its original intention.