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US Navy rescinds ban on Bibles for patients at Walter Reed hospital

Catholic World News - December 06, 2011

Under heavy pressure from Congressional and religious leaders, the US Navy has rescinded a policy that forbade visitors from giving Bibles or religious articles to wounded troops at the nation’s leading military hospital.

In a memo regarding visits to patients at Walter Reed hospital, chief of staff C.W. Callahan wrote: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” The memo, as written, would have made it impossible for relatives or chaplains to give wounded troops Bibles, Rosaries, or other religious items.

When Callahan’s memo was made public, religious leaders reacted with horror. An angry Congressman Steve King of Iowa said: “The President of the United States should address this and should excoriate the people who brought about this policy and the individual who brought it about should be dismissed from the United States military.”

Spokesmen for the Navy quickly announced that the policy had been rescinded. The intent of the memo, they said, was not to prevent military patients from receiving desired religious items, but to deter pamphleteers from leaving unwanted material with patients.

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