But questions linger. Why would unelected bureaucrats think they can ban Bibles? How did such a policy ever get approved? Who is responsible?
In Texas, an ongoing battle has been waged by the Veterans Administration and volunteers from the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Officials at Houston’s national cemetery barred any religious ceremonies at graveside and ignored denunciations by members of Congress as well as infuriated families. Calls have resounded nationwide for the firing of the cemetery’s director — but she has remained in office.
Now, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) has demanded that officials explain why bureaucrats have prohibited family members of wounded military troops from bringing Bibles or any religious reading materials to their loved ones.
“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,” said Congressman King.
Speaking from the floor of the House of Representatives, King blasted an order from the commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center written by Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan. The September 14th memo covers guidelines for “wounded, ill and injured partners in care.”
“No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit,” the policy states.
“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,” King said. “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
Now the ban has been lifted.
“The instructions about the Bibles and reading material have been rescinded,” said Sandy Dean, a public affairs officer for Walter Reed. “We appreciate Congressman King bringing this to our attention. We don’t want our instructions to be ambiguous.”
King said the military has some explaining to do.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for it and there’s no talking it away,” he told reporters. “The very existence of this, whether it’s enforced or not, tells you what kind of a mindset is there. The idea that these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that have fought to defend our Constitution, and that includes our First Amendment rights to religious liberty – would be denied that religious liberty when they are lying in a hospital bed recovering from wounds incurred while defending that liberty is the most bitter and offensive type of an irony that I can think of.”
Ken Klukwoski of the Family Research Council said the policy is more than troubling. It would seem that bureaucrats with an agenda keep testing their boundaries — seeing what they can get away with as they overstep their authority.
“It flies in the face of not only the Bill of Rights, but 200 years of federal law,” Klukwoski. “This current administration is showing unprecedented hostility towards those practicing the Christian faith. But beyond that, we’ve also seen a militantly secular attitude of trying to sterilize the Defense Department of all references to faith.”
The policy “must be rescinded and the people responsible for perpetrating it should be fired,” sais Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He repeated Congressman King’s demand that whoever is responsible for the policy be fired. “It cannot be allowed to stand. It shows the ugly face of the pseudo-tolerance of secularism. They claim to be tolerant but this is as intolerant as you can be – to not allow wounded soldiers to have religious artifacts.”
Congressman King said Americans must “take a very strong stand.”
“Christians are generally nice people and for that reason they can victimize the Christians in this country,” he said. “There was a reason that Christ gave us the demonstration of righteous anger when he threw the money changers out of the temple. It gives us some license to throw these kinds of people out of the military.”
The Congressman said he’s alarmed by a trend he’s seen to purge Christianity from America’s military, such as a recent order to remove a cross from an Army chapel in northern Afghanistan because it violated Army regulations.
King blamed the Obama Administration.
“This is Orwellian,” he said. “We are seeing a shocking level of hostility towards religious faith but beyond that – we’ve also seen a militantly secular attitude of trying to sterilize the defense department of all references to faith.”