Walter Reed accidentally bans Bibles

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is backtracking on an order that banned family members from bringing Bibles and other religious materials to injured soldiers and a religious organization is demanding an explanation.

Issued on the date of the official consolidation of the region's two military medical centers, the memo on visitor and patient policy contained a section stating "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit." The Sept. 14 memo came from the desk of Rear Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, commander of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

A spokeswoman for Walter Reed told The Washington Examiner on Friday that the policy was "written incorrectly," and that a ban on religious items was never enforced.

"Family can and always have been able to bring in any religious materials," said spokeswoman Sandy Dean, adding that the hospital provides chaplain services for many faiths.

The medical center rescinded the policy in early December after the Family Research Council brought it to the attention of several members of Congress who then contacted Walter Reed.

"It should have been more thoroughly reviewed," Dean said.

Related Document
  • Download the memo from Walter Reed’s commander
  • But FRC President Tony Perkins is skeptical.

    "If you can't get it right in a memo [from the commander], who can you trust?" he said.

    The religious organization has now filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for copies of all communications regarding the making of the policy.

    The policy was signed by Nathan's chief of staff, C.W. Callahan. But Dean said a "group of people" wrote the four-page memo and could not attribute the line on religious items to one person.

    Dean said the policy's intent was to "preserve people's religious rights," but many have lambasted the wording, saying it was a far cry from that intent.

    Iowa Rep. Steve King, one of the Republican congressmen who initially contacted Walter Reed, said through a spokeswoman that he's not surprised the medical center is taking weeks to rewrite its policy after rescinding it this month.

    "It'd be easy for me to write it -- but obviously they need someone other than the original author to come up with a new idea," he said.

    Dean said she did not immediately have an update on the status of the rewrite but said officials were being careful "that the policy we do come out with is respecting everyone's religious rights."

    lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

    This story was revised to include the current WRNMMC commander's name.

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    Liz Farmer

    Examiner Staff Writer
    The Washington Examiner