On Sept. 14, a memo from the chief of staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center told hospital staff: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.”
U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa took issue with this prohibition Friday, noting that it would prevent visitors from reading the Bible to sick family members or friends and could prevent dying patients from receiving their Last Rites. And the Obama Administration responded by dropping the policy.
“The instructions about the Bibles and reading material have been rescinded,” said Sandy Dean, a public affairs officer for Walter Reed. “We appreciate Congressman King bringing this to our attention. We don’t want our instructions to be ambiguous.”
King said the military has some explaining to do.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for it and there’s no talking it away,” he told reporters. “The very existence of this, whether it’s enforced or not, tells you what kind of a mindset is there. The idea that these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that have fought to defend our Constitution, and that includes our First Amendment rights to religious liberty – would be denied that religious liberty when they are lying in a hospital bed recovering from wounds incurred while defending that liberty is the most bitter and offensive type of an irony that I can think of.”