The Southern Baptist Convention’s website temporarily was blocked last week on numerous military installations, according to an April 24 report by Fox News. A Fort Stewart chaplain, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that Fort Stewart was among the bases where the SBC website was blocked, and he remains skeptical about the reasons given for the block.
The chaplain said he tried to enter the SBC website from his office but received a message that told him he was trying to enter a website with “hostile content.” He said he immediately reported the block to his commander, who relayed the information to Stewart’s Network Enterprise Command. The SBC website was unblocked by the next day, the chaplain said.
Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart responded to inquiries about the website block with written statements. He told the Coastal Courier that the DoD was aware that some service members were unable to access the SBC website.
“Upon close examination, we determined that our web filters detected malware at the SBC website, which resulted in the block for some service members,” Pickart said. “The department has verified that the Southern Baptist Convention website no longer contains malware that may pose a threat to our networks and was unblocked on April 25.”
Pickart said that the DoD uses a number of tools and commercial web-content filters to maintain network security. These filters block access to websites that may host malware or other dangerous links. In this case, security systems performed as expected in detecting a threat to DoD networks. He emphasized the DoD supports the religious rights of service members, including their ability to access religious websites, while balancing necessary security requirements.
He added that the DoD’s chief information officer recognizes the possibility of some websites being unnecessarily blocked. He has directed services to ensure they have exception procedures in place so personnel can request removal of a website from a blocked list, Pickart said. He said access to websites blocked due to malware may be granted when those sites no longer pose a threat.
The Stewart chaplain who reported the website block is skeptical. He doubts the block was accidental or coincidental, given recent incidents listed in an April 24 Fox News article by Todd Starnes, who first reported the SBC website block.
Starnes’ article mentions official emails by a senior officer to his subordinates at Fort Campbell, Ky., that reportedly call the American Family Association and Family Research Council “domestic hate groups.”
On April 26, before the DoD made its findings known, Dr. Roger Sing Oldham, vice president for communications and relations for the SBC’s executive committee, was cautious about making connections or conclusions.
“Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the U.S. military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature,” Oldham said.
On Wednesday, Oldham’s office said the SBC was “satisfied at this point” with DoD’s explanation. The SBC is the largest protestant denomination in the country with more than 16 million members. To read the SBC’s press release about the blocked website, go to www.bpnews.net.