NASHVILLE (BP) -- A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman is urging Christians not to "rush to judgment" that the military has targeted and blocked the denomination's website.

Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC's Executive Committee, made the comments after FoxNews' Todd Starnes reported that Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplains on military installations had unsuccessfully tried to access SBC.net, and had received a message: "The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content." The site was not blocked at the Pentagon, FoxNews said.

The FoxNews report went viral on social media, and the Associated Press wrote a story summarizing what had happened.

"We continue to be in contact with the Department of Defense and are carefully monitoring the situation," Oldham said. "Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature."

A military official, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, told FoxNews that the site was not blocked deliberately.

"The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site," Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told FoxNews. "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."

One question is whether the word "hostile" was referencing the denomination's positions on biblical and social issues or instead was alluding to potential computer problems -- such as viruses or malware. Oldham said the military has said it is "taking steps to determine the causes." The computers in the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Pentagon allowed "full and free access" to SBC.net, Oldham said, "though they had received reports from a variety of bases across the nation that our site had been blocked."

"Our Information Technologies department," Oldham said, "following its normal protocol, has initiated an internal systems analysis of our server array to determine if there may be hostile or malicious coding on our own site or on any site that may be linked to SBC.net that would cause the Department of Defense filter systems to block access to our Web pages. At this point, it is premature to speculate on the existence, cause, or location of any such potential problem."

Oldham also said he appreciated "the many pastors, church members, and lawmakers who have risen to the defense of our religious liberties, guaranteed by the same United States Constitution every soldier has pledged to defend."

Following is Oldham's full statement:

"The Southern Baptist Convention became aware on Wednesday afternoon that some military bases have blocked the SBC.net web site for containing possible 'hostile' content. Living in the digital age with internet filters, spam blockers, and virus protection software, we alerted the Army of the problem and sought to obtain their assurance that the word "hostile" did not refer to any religious content on our site.

"Through conversations with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA, formerly known as the Defense Communications Agency) in Maryland and the Defense Press Operations office at the Pentagon in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon and evening, we determined both that the Army was aware of the problem and that it was taking steps to determine the causes. According to reports from both DISA and the Pentagon, the computers in their offices allowed full and free access to SBC.net, though they had received reports from a variety of bases across the nation that our site had been blocked.

"Since then, we have become aware that other branches of the military have also blocked access to the SBC.net Web site. Our Information Technologies department, following its normal protocol, has initiated an internal systems analysis of our server array to determine if there may be hostile or malicious coding on our own site or on any site that may be linked to SBC.net that would cause the Department of Defense filter systems to block access to our Web pages. At this point, it is premature to speculate on the existence, cause, or location of any such potential problem.

"We continue to be in contact with the Department of Defense and are carefully monitoring the situation. Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature.

"At the same time, we express appreciation for the many pastors, church members, and lawmakers who have risen to the defense of our religious liberties, guaranteed by the same United States Constitution every soldier has pledged to defend. We express our gratitude to the Lord for the many men and women in uniform who routinely place themselves in harm's way in order that our great Republic, based on fundamental rights guaranteed by our Creator and our Redeemer, may continue to stand as a beacon to the world for religious liberty."

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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