When President Trump signed his executive order last week which was meant to promote religious liberty and allow religions to spend money on political campaigns, one of his justifications was a sob story about how “our brave service members” are “forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital.”
It turns out, however, that this was a complete lie or at best a misunderstanding of a rule imposed on military hospitals to stop random people purporting to represent various religious from barging in on patients uninvited.
When CNN asked the Trump White House about this, they couldn’t get a reply. However, at the Pentagon, where there was shock about what Trump had claimed, the record was set straight.
As at a military base, in a military hospital, there is concern about security and privacy. So if a service person is in the hospital, any donations of outside items by non-military groups are subject to review. If it is within the rules, those who are certified as chaplains may enter the patient’s room with the permission of the patient.
Each service person has the right to declare in their personnel records their religious choice. Then chaplains of that religion can see them or bring them items they want.
While no one can be sure where Trump got his incorrect information, the Pentagon told CNN that it was probably related to a situation at the Walter Reed Medical Center, In 2011, a rule was implemented, according to the Pentagon, to “prevent unsolicited proselytizing from religious groups, including the distribution of their religious items to patients who had not asked for them.”
“Due to the wording of that policy,” the Pentagon continued, “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.’ “
Apparently, Trump could not be bothered to ask the military about this before imposing his executive order, or maybe it just didn’t serve his real agenda.
The real reason for Trump’s religious freedom order was to repay certain religious groups for agreeing to support his campaign for president. His order has opened the door for churches to be used to hide dark money donations (without transparency about the real donors), which many concerned religious groups have already condemned.
As he spends more on military weapons but less on veterans, this is more “fake news” from a president who has a history of using the service men and women as props in his on-going machinations. He once again is twisting things around to justify his actions – even if what he is saying is not based in reality.