- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chaplains with the Southern Baptist Convention said the U.S. military has blocked access to its website on bases around the nation, calling the content “hostile” and inappropriate.

The blocking comes just weeks after Army personnel cited Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians as possible examples of extremists. The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant group and stands steadfast in its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Chaplains told Fox News that SBC.net had been censored, and those trying to access the site at various military bases were greeted with a warning: “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS … due to hostile content,” Fox News reported. Team CONUS is in charge of the computer network for the Defense Department, Fox News said.

The “hostile content” wasn’t explained, chaplains said, but military spokespeople said the blockage was by accident.

“The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said on Fox News. “We are working diligently to investigate what might be causing access issues for some of our service members and to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”

Access to the site wasn’t blocked at the Pentagon, Fox News reported. Meanwhile, SBC spokespeople find the censorship — even if it was unintentional, as the military claims — of utmost concern.

“This is deeply disturbing,” said Sing Oldham, SBC spokesman, to Fox News. “While the deputy chief of operations of the U.S. Army has assured us this is a random event with no malicious intent, the Army must run this to the ground to assure that this is the case.”

If the government in fact did intentionally block access, he continued to Fox News, “that would be an unconscionable breach of trust with the American public. The First Amendment exists to protect the church from governmental censorship of, or infringement upon, religious speech and the free exercise of religion.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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