A leading military hospital was poised to implement an anti-Bible policy that would have been spiritually devastating. Thankfully, once the light was shone on the policy, common sense prevailed, and the policy was quashed.
Since 1909, Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., has been caring for injured Army personnel. Later it was named Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Recently, they moved to Bethesda, Md., and became Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, expanding their mission beyond just the Army.
As the new facility was opening, the Navy issued a four-page memo with new guidelines for the new hospital.
Amazingly, the guidelines stated "no religious items (including Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."
How far will political correctness in this country go? Would some bureaucrats try to keep the world’s most loved (and hated) book from providing consolation for wounded soldiers or their grieving families?
Thankfully, active Christians managed to get the policy reversed.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative pro-family think tank in Washington, DC, sounded the alarm on December 2, 2011: “The new orders are buried in a four-page document about patient care, which an Army officer forwarded to us in disbelief. Effective immediately, families, friends, and even pastors will have to check their beliefs at the door to visit one of the largest military hospitals in the United States.”
When Family Research Council learned of these new guidelines, they were able to alert officials on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
So Congressman King went to the House floor late last week and declared, "Mr. Speaker, these military men and women who are recovering at Walter Reed and Bethesda have given their all for America. ... They've defended and taken an oath to the Constitution, and here they are. The people that come to visit them can't bring a religious artifact? They can't bring a Bible? ... A priest can't walk in with the Eucharist and offer communion to a patient who might be on their deathbed because it's prohibited in this memo from the Department of the Navy?"
After alerting their readers on this issue, Family Research Council was able to report success on December 5, 2011: “After working with concerned leaders like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and talking with staff at Walter Reed, we were assured that the Navy was rescinding the policy.”
Indeed, the Walter Reed website itself states (as of this writing, 12/9/11): “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.”
But my question is, Why in the world would such a policy be issued in the first place? In a nation with our spiritual foundation, where our national motto still happens to be “In God we trust,” why would any such guidelines be written at all?
Even a cursory reading of our nation’s founding shows how incredibly out of step are such anti-religious measures with our roots.
The founders of America did not intend for America to have a national denomination, and they desired that the sacred right of conscience not be violated. But that did not mean they wanted the public realm to be a religion-free zone. Far from it.
George Washington said in his First Inaugural Address that the first thing we ought to do as a new nation is to give thanks to God. He said in his Farewell Address that “religion and morality” were “indispensable supports” to our “political prosperity.”
Even Ben Franklin, who was not orthodox in his beliefs, was the one who made an impassioned plea for the founders to pray when they were writing the Constitution and had hit some major impasses.
He declared on June 28, 1787, during the convention:
We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.
A variation of Franklin’s request for prayer was adopted, the founders prayed together (on July 4), and the Constitution was finished.
Like Franklin, Thomas Jefferson was also not necessarily an orthodox Christian. Yet he made common references to God. He said that the moral teaching of Jesus was the best there is. He also had the Bible used as a textbook in Virginia schools (at all levels) that he helped found.
In short, it’s a myth that the founders of America (even the non-orthodox ones) intended for our nation to be run as an essentially atheistic state.
Yet here we are, some 225 years later, and if the elites could have had their way, the Bible would be banned from even a military hospital.
Long before he became our first president, note what George Washington declared to his troops when he first took over the army on July 4, 1775 (speaking of himself in the third person):
The General most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires and expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance on Divine service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.
I’ll take the founders’ vision for America to the politically correct version any day.
Jerry Newcombe is the senior producer and host of Truth that Transforms with D. James Kennedy (formerly The Coral Ridge Hour). He has also written or co-written 21 books, including Answers from the Founding Fathers, available from Truth in Action Ministries.
Publication date: December 10, 2011