NASHVILLE, TN – Southern Baptist chaplains are reporting that SBC.net, the official web site of the Southern Baptist Convention has been blocked at military installations across the nation. The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and is known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.
The censorship became public after an Army officer attempted to log onto the denomination’s website but instead received a warning message. “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read. Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Department of Defense.
This action comes just weeks after what was then termed an isolated action by an Army Reserve contractor who labeled evangelical Christians and Catholics as examples of religious extremists. Army officials termed that incident as isolated and not condoned by the Department of the Army. They said the presentation to the reservists was not produced by the Army nor did it reflect their policy or doctrine.
Religious liberty groups contend the action against SBC.net is not as isolated as presented by the Department of Defense. Lt. General Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council told Fox News, “This is another example of the growing hostility toward evangelical Christians in the armed forces. Ironically, the very people who are sworn to support and defend the rights provided in the U.S. Constitution are being denied the right to exercise those rights individually.”
Over the past few weeks the Army has come under fire after an officer sent an email to subordinates labeling the AFA and the Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups.” Other such incidents include:
- Soldiers at Fort Wainwright in Alaska were told to scrape off a Bible verse reference on their weapon scopes. That verse had been inscribed by the maker of the scopes.
- A war games scenario at Fort Leavenworth that identified Christian groups and evangelical groups as being potential threats.
- A 2009 Department of Homeland Security memorandum that identified future threats to national security coming from evangelicals and pro-life groups.
- A West Point study released by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center that linked pro-lifers to terrorism.
- Evangelical leader Franklin Graham was uninvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service because of his comments about Islam.
- Christian prayers were banned at the funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery.
- Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a decision that was later rescinded.
- Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan because the military said the icons disrespected other religions.
- Catholic chaplains were told not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop related to Obamacare mandates. The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.
Sing Oldham, spokesman for the SBC, told Fox News that he had been in touch with the Department of Defense and had serious concerns. “This is deeply disturbing,” he said. “While the Deputy Chief of Operation of the U.S. 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.”
“If the government blocked any portion of the SBC.net Web site for any purpose, that would be an unconscionable breach of trust with the American public,” Oldham said. “The First Amendment exists to protect the church from governmental censorship of or infringement upon religious speech and the free exercise of religion.”
The Department of Defense says the SBC website had been blocked, but unintentionally. “The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart. “We are working diligently to investigate what might be causing access issues for some of our service members and to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”
Richard Land, outgoing president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission criticized the censorship and demanded that Southern Baptist soldiers be provided access to the site. “This is outrageous,” said Land. “Southern Baptists make up a higher percentage of the all-volunteer military than in the general population. It’s outrageous that our website would be blocked for Southern Baptists serving in the military and defending the freedom to access websites.”
“This is astonishing and offensive,” wrote Rep. Doug Lamborn (R – CO) to the Army. “We call on you to rescind this briefing and apologize for its content and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism.”