Walter Reed Medical Center has Banned Religious Items-Truth! But Rescinded!

Walter Reed Medical Center has Banned Religious Items-Truth! But Rescinded!

Summary of eRumor:

A forwarded email that warns that a recent change in U.S. Navy policy at the Walter Reed Medical Center has resulted in a ban of religious items including Bibles.   The email warns that this ban could also prohibit priests from offering the sacraments such as Communion and Last Rites to wounded soldiers at the medical center.

The Truth:
The policy was real but was in error and it was rescinded.  An apology and statement was posted on the web site of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) saying:
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 It has been rescinded.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.

Attention to this story was initiated by the Washington D.C. based Family Resource Council. It announced that it had obtained an  internal memo that said that “Navy officials had announced that ‘no religious items (including Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit'” to wounded soldiers being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.  This prompted a mass email “Action Alert” campaign from the organization to encourage readers to sign an online petition posted on the FRC website.
The internal memo was about visitation guidelines and came from the Department of the Navy and was addressed to Walter Reed Medical Center on September 14, 2011 according to the video transcript of a House Floor speech by Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

YouTube Video of Rep. Steve King discusses visitation policy at 4 1/2 minutes into the video.

updated 12/08/11