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Gideons Kicked off of Military Bases-Fiction!
Summary of the eRumor: Two days after the
presidential election, the Department of Defense issued an order that
effectively bans the Gideons from military bases. The eRumor says it
takes effect on November 21, 2008.
The Truth: The Gideons International is
an organization of Christian business and professional men who are
"dedicated to saving the lost through personal witnessing and the
distribution of God's Word," the Bible. It is known for distributing
Bibles around the world including to U.S. military personnel.
The eRumor is based on an actual order issued by the Department of
Defense, but it does not ban the Gideons from military bases and does
not take effect on November 21.
On November 6, 2008, a Department of
Defense (DOD) memorandum was published that enacted a policy regarding
access by any "non-Federal Entity" to Military Entrance Processing
Stations (MEPS). That is where applicants to the military go through
various kinds of testing to determine qualifications for joining one of
the armed forces.
In other words, it does not apply to
all military bases, just the Military Entrance Processing Stations.
Also, the memo does not prohibit religious literature at the MEPS, but
only when it is not authorized in writing by the MEPS commander. Such
literature cannot create the impression that the government is
sponsoring or disfavoring any religion in particular. There cannot be
any proselytizing, preaching, or spiritual counseling, or fund raising
by any non-Federal Entity.
The memo also specifies that "This
policy does not apply to religious organizations operating within a MEPS
under the auspices of the Chaplaincy of any DOD service or department."
In other words, authorized non-Federal Entities are not affected,
although they do need to function under the guidelines established by
the government for religious organizations.
Whoever wrote this eRumor said that
"This is being battled in the courts, which is why I am not allowed to
send you an actual copy of the order."
TruthOrFiction.com, however, was not able to find any court action being
waged and the Gideons International told us they were not taking any
legal action against the order.
A real example of the eRumor as it has
appeared on the Internet:
On Nov. 6, 2008, two days after our presidential election
the Dept. of Defense issued an order effective Friday, Nov. 21, 2008
(this past Friday) that effectively bans the Gideons from military
bases. When the Gideons arrived at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn at 5:30 AM
to distribute New Testaments to the recruits being deployed they were
handed a copy of the order mentioned here. The order states that
effective beginning Nov. 21st. no non-military personnel will be allowed
to distribute religious literature on any US military base. The
explanation listed in the order is that the US military must be careful
not to favor one religion over another. This is being battled in the
courts, which is why I am not allowed to send you an actual copy of the
order. If you want to see the order ask any camp leader of the Gideons
in your area. He will be allowed to let you see and read it, but you
will not be allowed to make a copy.
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