Religion and military hospitals

Earlier today I received an email fwd that originated last September when someone at Walter Reed mistakenly published an unvetted policy restricting the distribution of religious material, such as bibles, even by family and clergy. Here is the language of the policy, as reported by Fox News, et al: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.”

The policy was quickly retracted and a new one published that was consistent with the long and ongoing history of the military respecting, honoring and appreciating the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of our soldiers, veterans and their families.

Here is Walter Reed’s Pastoral Care site which makes fairly clear their commitment to the religious/spiritual/faith aspects of soldiers’ lives.

Some of the original email text includes: This military, where homosexuality is celebrated and Christianity is censored; where witches are financed and crosses are scorned; where bestiality is embraced and Bibles are banned; where same-sex “weddings” are encouraged but international charity is not. After three years of ideological warfare, the administration’s intent is clear: to disarm the military of its biggest weapon. Faith. Regardless of Presidents agenda, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that empowers the government to stop family members from giving Bibles or crosses to their loved ones. And from a PR standpoint, I’m not sure the best way to boost approval ratings is by denying comfort to wounded warriors. Unfortunately for our troops, who have endured so much turmoil under the administration, this is another blow.

Can anyone else hear the fear? And with fear often come paranoia, conspiracy theories, and scapegoating. None of which is constructive.

 

Following is my reply to that original email:

That wording was an unfortunate gaff on the part of someone in an office.
Certainly not a part of some larger conspiracy, nor is it the kind of policy that any president from either party would have had a role in formulating.
My guess is that the policy language originated in response to soldiers who had unwelcome visits of a religious nature, either from pushy family or clergy, I have seen that in my work as a hospital chaplain. And an over zealous writer somewhere thought they had a way to protect patient rights.
I’ve worked at a VA hospital in the Chaplain service, and the VA is very much open to the role of religion/spirituality in the lives of soldiers and veterans and their families, and recognized the role that spirituality plays in health.
Some examples are:
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
VA site on Spiritual Health
National Chaplain Center of the DoVA

Hope that helps offer some clarity.
Rev. Ken Crawford, Pastor

3 thoughts on “Religion and military hospitals

  1. Reading the Snopes article itself (snopes.com and search walter reed bible) makes clear that the intent of the policy was to protect soldiers from unwanted and uninvited proselytizing by any group, not to limit the freedom of patients or their families. Clearly it was very poorly worded.
    The government’s goal, in this case, was to protect freedom of religion – i.e. that of the soldiers and families who were in the hospital – from those who would want to push their religious view (whatever it may be) on others, under extremely stressful situations, and when they are not in a position to just walk away, as one might be in the mall or at a public park.

  2. I just read your post. With all of the claims coming from multiple sides it is difficult to get to the bottom of things these days. Thanks for the clarity.

  3. Yeah, I find that the story floating around is rarely even half the truth, particularly when it is aimed at lambasting someone who I believe probably means well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s