Would the Pentagon really block access to the web site of the nation's largest Protestant denomination? According to a new report from Fox News' Todd Starnes: Yes.
The U.S. Military reportedly blocked access to SBC.net, the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) website on an unknown number of military bases. The reason? "Hostile content," according to Starnes. The discovery was apparently made after an Army officer who tried to log onto the website received an error message. Chaplains, too, reported being greeted by a warning message.
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"The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content," the warning allegedly reads (CONUS is the group that monitors and protects the Dept. of Defense computer network).
At first, it was unclear what on the SBC.net website would have been flagged as "hostile content." Starnes noted that the denomination is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage -- but there's no indication that this is at the root of the scenario.
A spokesperson for the SBC expressed concerns over the blockage of the web site, calling it "deeply disturbing," although it is unclear whether the crackdown was intentional.
"While the Deputy Chief of Operation 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," spokesman Sing Oldham told Starnes after speaking with the military.
"If the government blocked any portion of the ... [website] 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," he added.
The Department of Defense told Starnes on Wednesday that the blockage was not intentional. A representative said that the military was working diligently to get to the root of the access problem and to correct it. On Thursday, it seems the mystery was solved. Starnes writes:
The Pentagon blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website recently because it contained “hostile content” that was later determined to be malware, a military spokesman said Thursday.
“We determined that our web filters recently detected malware at the SBC website, which resulted in the block for some service members,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Pickart denied the block had anything to do with the religious content of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.“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,” he said.
While some will agree with the military and embrace the notion that the blockage was done in error, some religious liberty proponents will certainly see it as a purposeful crackdown. At the moment, though, there is no definitive evidence that it is the latter. Malware, as per the government's claims, is apparently at the root of the issue.
Read Starnes full report for more.
(H/T: Todd Starnes)