Walter Reed Issues Statement on Bible Ban

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center issued the following statement in response to the outcry over its explicit ban on Bibles in the facility, saying it was “incorrect” as written and “has been rescinded.”

We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:

Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.

Please know that at admission, all patients are asked for their religious preference and a chaplain associated with their preference visits them regularly to provide spiritual services. In addition, their families may also bring religious material and we will not refuse any religious group entrance.

WRNMMC provides multiple venues at WRMNMC for religious expression and worship. There is daily Catholic Mass as well as Protestant, Hindu, and Muslim services. Eucharist is also available at the bedside. There are weekly Torah studies, multiple weekly Christian bible studies, as well as weekly Qur’an study. Furthermore, chaplains coordinate spiritual needs for those whose faith groups are not represented by staff chaplains (such as Latter-Day Saints, Buddhist, and Christian Scientist).

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains committed to supporting the religious preferences of all our patients and we will continue to ensure their spiritual needs are met.

The underlying question remains:  Why was a policy written to explicitly ban Bibles?  Without attribution, the Air Force Times said the original policy was

designed to protect patients from proselytizers…

A Walter Reed spokesman said the policy was intended to “respect” the “religious and cultural practices of our patients.”  How does one arrive at the conclusion that the preservation of respect for one requires banning what is “sacred to another?”

To their credit, no one has complained they were prohibited from bringing religious materials into the facility.  People who write regulations are human, too, and can make mistakes, including crafting an ill-conceived, though apparently unenforced, policy against religion.

Still, how someone thought writing the policy the way they did was acceptable under the US Constitution and basic human liberties remains a mystery.

Think Michael Weinstein will join with the Family Research Council’s position and hail this reversal as a victory for religious freedom?

One comment

  • I appreciate that the policy was rescinded. However, why was the apology “for any confusion the policy may have caused”? Why not apologize for implementing–or at least publishing–the policy at all? The problem wasn’t folks’ confusion; the problem was Walter Reed’s ridiculous and illegal prohibition of Bibles.