While signing a "religious freedom" order on May 4, President Donald Trump asserted that U.S. military hospitals had blocked religious items meant for soldiers (video below).
Trump made his remarks during the signing ceremony, notes CNN:
People were forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital where our brave service members were being treated, and when they wanted those religious items. These were great, great people. These are great soldiers. They wanted those items. They were precluded from getting them.
Pentagon officials said no such policy blocks military members from receiving religious items. However, outside groups are not allowed to enter patients' rooms or military hospitals without permission as hospitals are considered to be the same as military bases.
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Any item that is donated by outside non-military groups has to be checked over and distributed by chaplains.
Service members can reportedly declare their religious beliefs in their personnel records, and chaplains of that faith will make sure they get the items.
The White House would not comment to CNN, but Pentagon officials recalled an incident when outside religious groups were trying to convert service members:
In 2011, a local patient visitation policy was issued at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that was written to prevent unsolicited proselytizing from religious groups, including the distribution of their religious items to patients who had not asked for them.
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Due to the wording of that policy, religious groups interpreted the policy to be an outright ban on visitation and distribution of religious items. The policy was subsequently re-written to eliminate ambiguity, stating that, "Patients determine their visitors."
The Blaze ran a story in 2011 with the headline "Walter Reed Military Hospital Bans Bibles & Religious Materials -- Then Overturns Policy," linking to a story by Fox News radio host Todd Starnes that featured the headline "U.S. Military to Rescind Policy Banning Bibles at Hospital."
Starnes cited Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who ultimately blamed President Obama, as did The Gateway Pundit, which chose the headline "It’s an Obama World ... Walter Reed Hospital Bars Family Members From Bringing Bibles to Injured Soldiers."
The outrage centered around the wording of a memo that contained a line mentioning Bibles: "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit," noted Starnes.
King insisted the memo meant that family members and priests could not bring a soldier religious items, but Sandy Dean, a public affairs officer for Walter Reed, said at the time that the rule "in no way meant to prohibit family members from providing religious items to their loved ones at all."
"The instructions about the Bibles and reading material have been rescinded," Dean added. "It will be written to articulate our initial intention, which was to respect religious and cultural practices of our patients."