The Secretary of the U.S. Army has issued an order to suspend internal training programs that have labeled Christian believers and Christian organizations as members of domestic “hate groups.”
U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh has instructed Army brass to cease all briefings and presentations on the subject of “extremist organizations” until Army officials “standardize” such training programs.
McHugh’s actions follows the latest in a string of episodes in which Army training officers have branded supporters of traditional values as domestic security threats. The most recent incident occurred at Ft. Hood in Texas.
Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing were told by a counter-intelligence officer that evangelical Christians, pro-life organizations, and Tea Party groups were radical extremists who “were tearing the country apart.” Soldiers claim they were further told that if they contributed to such organizations they could be subject to discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“The American public should be outraged that the U.S. Army is teaching our troops that evangelical Christians and Tea Party members are enemies of America, and that they can be punished for participating in these groups,” says Michael Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute. Berry is a former Marine Corps JAG officer.
“The military is supposed to defend freedom, and to classify the vast majority of the military that claim to be Christian as terrorists is sick,” one of the soldiers in the briefing told Fox News. “Our community is still healing from the act of terrorism brought on by Nidal Hasan–who really is a terrorist.”
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, echoed the soldier’s comment. “On the very base that was the site of the mass murder carried out by a radicalized Muslim soldier, it is astonishing that evangelical groups are being identified as a threat. Defense Secretary Hagel must intervene immediately to stop this march against the rights and freedoms of our soldiers.”
Army officials claim that training programs that have targeted conservative Christian organizations as “hate groups” have been developed by misguided training officers acting on their own. This explanation defies belief. The information contained in the anti-Christian training presentations at various military installations have been nearly identical.
Earlier this month a security briefing was presented to active duty and reserve Army troops at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Soldiers were told that the American Family Association (AFA) was a “domestic hate group” along with the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam.
The instructor falsely linked AFA to the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, with which it has no affiliation whatsoever. Soldiers were told they could be subject to discipline if they participated in such “hate groups.”
In April of this year the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty uncovered a U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity Training program that targeted “religious extremism. ” The training slides listed “evangelical Christianity” at the top of a list of “hate groups” which included Al Quaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Catholicism, and the Ku Klux Klan.
In the same month, a U.S. Army officer at Fort Campbell, Kentucky distributed an internal e-mail in which he described the Family Research Council and AFA as “domestic hate groups.” The officer stated he wanted to educate his troops on organizations that “do not share our Army values.”
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplains Alliance, says the growing antipathy to Christianity in military training settings is dishonorable. “Far from mere ‘isolated incidents,’ as the Army has dismissed them, this latest incident demonstrates a pattern and practice identifying mainstream religions as examples of religious extremism.”
“How much longer can the Army claim no knowledge or responsibility for these things?” asks Berry, the Liberty Institute attorney. “Either this training was directed from Army leadership at the Pentagon, or else the Army has a real discipline and leadership problem on its hands because a bunch of rogue officers are teaching this nonsense.”
Army Secretary McHugh acknowledged that Army instructors had “supplemented” programs of instruction with “inaccurate and objectionable” information and material. He suggested that instructors had located the information on the Internet from the website of a particular special interest group.
Family Research Council officials have long believed that the training materials were derived from “information” compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC is a genuine hate group that has a mission to slander and defame organizations and institutions that defend Biblical truth and traditional values.
The building drumbeat of anti-Christian indoctrination in the military occurs in the context of broader religious liberty concerns in the nation’s armed forces. In the spring the Pentagon released a statement saying that “religious proselytization” was no longer permitted within the Department of Defense. The statement suggested that service members could be court-martialed for sharing their faith in unauthorized fashion.
Defense Department officials backed off in the wake of harsh public criticism from many quarters. Pentagon spokesmen said it was acceptable to “evangelize,” but only so long as it was not “unwanted or intrusive.” Air Force Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said that personnel could only express their religious convictions if they did not make others “uncomfortable.”
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One of the soldiers who was subjected to the Ft. Hood briefing had this additional comment: “I risk my life and sacrifice time away from my family to fight for our freedoms, yet my religious liberties are taken away. Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? Am I going to be in trouble going to church?”
The Family Research Council has organized a petition drive calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect the religious freedom of those men and women pledged to the defense of our country. You can sign that petition by using this link:
LifeNews.com Note: Joe Oertwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.