Family Research Council Sues U.S. Navy for Records about Decision to Ban Bibles from Walter Reed
Judicial Watch Represents Family Research Council in Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Navy on behalf of the Family Research Council (FRC). The FOIA lawsuit, (Family Research Council, Inc. v. Department of the Navy (No. 1:12-cv-00589)), seeks access to records concerning a policy announced in a September 14, 2011, memo issued by the Commander of the Walter Reed National Military Medial Center banning the use and/or distribution of Bibles and other religious items during visits with wounded, ill or injured patients.
On December 13, 2011, the Family Research Council filed a FOIA request with the U.S. Department of the Navy to obtain the following records:
a) All records concerning, regarding, or relating to the policy of limiting patient access to Bibles and other religious materials or artifacts;
b) All communications with any third parties concerning the policy, including communications during the drafting period;
c) All records of implementation plans/guidelines of the policy; and
d) All communications concerning, regarding or relating to the revocation or possible revocation of this policy;
The U.S. Navy acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request on December 21, 2012, and was required, by law, to respond by January 23, 2012, at the latest. However, as of the date of this lawsuit, the U.S. Navy has neither produced any responsive documents nor indicated why these records should be withheld. The U.S. Navy has also failed to indicate if a response is forthcoming.
On September 14, 2011, Col. Chuck Callaghan, Chief of Staff of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, issued a memorandum on behalf of the facility’s Commander with the subject heading, “WOUNDED, ILL AND INJURED PARTNERS IN CARE GUIDELINES.” One of the memorandum’s stipulations regarding “Partners in care guidelines” stated “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” Partners in care, as defined by the memo, include family members as well as “verifiable 501(c)(3) benevolent organizations,” among others.
The Family Research Council obtained the memorandum and shared it with members of Congress, leading to significant press coverage. Walter Reed officials ultimately issued a statement rescinding the policy: “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.”
The Family Research Council filed a FOIA request regarding the matter and FRC President Tony Perkins issued the following statement: “We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Walter Reed Military Medical Center in hope of understanding who authorized the Bible ban and why. Although the Center’s spokesmen assure that the policy has been rescinded, we have yet to see the revised policy. Until then, we’ll push forward with our investigation to see who or what is driving the religious purging. This is yet another troubling instance of Obama administration hostility toward religious liberty, a liberty that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
“Judicial Watch is happy to represent FRC in federal court as it seeks to extract the truth from the Obama administration about its deplorable idea to ban Bibles from Walter Reed,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.