The Religious Right went into a frenzy this week over charges that the military was deliberately blocking access to SBC.net, the official website of the Southern Baptist Convention’s, as part of an anti-Christian ploy.
“What we are seeing here, I want to be very clear here, we are seeing under the Obama administration a Christian cleansing underway in the United States military,” Fox News' Starnes maintained.
David Limbaugh accused the military of acting like a “thought police” who “selectively suppress[es] First Amendment freedoms” that “our armed forces are charged to protect,” and the SBC’s top ethicist Richard Land said it was an “outrageous” move and the person who blocked the website “needs to be fired.”
The American Family Association called the incident an example of the military’s “hostility towards faith and religious freedom” and its spokesman Bryan Fischer claimed it was part of an Islamist-secularist conspiracy to classify the entire denomination as a “hate group that spews nothing but ‘hostile content.’”
SBC.net was in fact blocked, but not as a result of anti-Christian bias, but because of malware on the SBC’s website.
Don’t just take our word for it, the Baptist Press, the news arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, reported that “the military's software filters detected malware at SBC.net and blocked the website.” Due to malware, not the content of the website, SBC.net was considered “hostile content.”
But don’t hold your breath for Land or Fischer to retract their inflammatory claims.
A military official says malware was to blame for the Southern Baptist Convention's website being blocked on some military bases.
Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Defense Department spokesman, said the military's software filters detected malware at SBC.net and blocked the website. The malware since has been removed off the website, and the denomination's website unblocked, he said.
"The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site," Pickart told The Tennessean in an email. "The Department of Defense strongly supports the religious rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC."
Chris Chapman, the SBC Executive Committee's director of information systems, said SBC.net -- like the websites of many other organizations -- is a target for hackers. He also said the military's filters are at an "optimum level" in blocking content, not simply "recognizing invading viruses" but also blocking anything that possibly could be harmful.
"The recent situation impeding access to our website for some was aggravated by a misunderstanding of a term familiar to those in the information technology field. That term is 'hostile content.' To technical administrators, it simply means some sort of vulnerability or virus. It might not even be an actively harmful element, but simply an exploitable or potentially exploitable condition. We now live in an age where defending against or removing 'hostile content' is a daily undertaking, especially for any organization that maintains multiple Internet servers.