Members of Congress have expressed astonishment that the U.S. Army Reserve would use a training brief that slams Catholics, evangelical Christians and others and are demanding the practice come to a halt – now.
“Our nation needs to have an honest conversation about religious extremism and what we can do to avoid religious violence. However, labeling these major world religions as extremists is wrong and hurtful,” said a letter by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., that was signed by dozens of other members.
It was addressed to Army Secretary John. M . McHugh at the Pentagon.
“We call on you to rescind this briefing and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism,” the letter said.
The letter was prompted by reports that soldiers were taught that evangelical Christians are an extremist threat to America along with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, KKK, Nation of Islam, al-Qaida and Hamas.
“Men and women of faith who have served the Army faithfully for centuries shouldn’t be likened to those who have regularly threatened the peace and security of the United States,” said retired Col. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization. It also appears that some military entities are using definitions of ‘hate’ and ‘extreme’ from the lists of anti-Christian political organizations. That violates the apolitical stance appropriate for the military.”
The U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training briefing, given to an Army reserve unit in Pennsylvania, was titled “Extremism and Extremist Organizations.”
The material mentions neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist organizations. Pictures are shown on various slides of people in Klan attire and Nazi flags. The significance of gang tattoos, racist acronyms and numbers was also discussed.
While the material on gangs and racist organizations is similar to what one might receive from a local police briefing on gang issues, after teaching on neo-Nazis in the military such as Timothy McVeigh, the material makes a remarkable link.
A slide titled “Religious Extremism” lists multiple organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Hamas, the Nation of Islam, the Ku Klux Klan and the Christian Identity movement as examples of extremist groups.
However, the first group on the list is evangelical Christianity. Catholicism and ultra-orthodox Judaism are also on the list of religious extremist organizations.
The letter said the members of Congress were concerned to learn of the training brief.
“This is astonishing and offensive and we urge you to immediately rescind this briefing,” said the letter.
“Religious extremism is a very serious topic, but equating these major world religions with violent extremist groups is simply not acceptable. As you know, the Army is a microcosm of our country and is filled with faithful and peace-loving Catholics, Jews, Muslims and evangelical Christians who are proudly serving our country. This briefing reveals an anti-religion bias rather than a rational approach to religious extremism.”
The signatories, along with Lamborn, were Reps. John Fleming, Robert Pittenger, Scott Garrett, Alan Nunnelee, Tim Huelskamp, Trent Franks, Walter Jones, Vicky Hartzler, Jack Kingston, Steve King, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Tim Walberg, Michele Bachmann, Bill Nuisenga, Mike Kelly, Duncan Hunter, Dan Lipinski, Lynn Jenkins, Ron DeSantis, Randy Weber, Lynn Westmoreland, Jason Chaffetz, Ander Crenshaw, Steven Palazzo, Marsha Blackburn, Bill Posey, James Lankford, Patrick McHenry, Stephen Fincher, Doug LaMalfa, Michael Burgess, Paul Broun, Frank Wolf, Michael Conaway, Jeff Duncan, Dan Benishek, Virginia Foxx, Steve Stockman, Ken Calvert and Jeff Miller.
WND reported that after the military briefing a soldier who describes himself as an evangelical told the trainer he was offended by the material and asked for a copy of it. After receiving a copy, he forwarded the material to Crews.
The material describes religious extremists as those having beliefs, attitudes, feelings or actions that are “far removed from the ordinary.” It then elaborates by saying that “every religion has some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only ‘right way’ and that all others practicing their faith the ‘wrong way.’”
Crews said it is astounding that soldiers were taught that a key foundation of the Christian faith is now considered extreme and compared to those who want to implement Islamic law.
“The idea of salvation being exclusively through Christ is a key doctrine of the Christian faith,” Crews said. “It is amazing that the trainer felt they had the authority and right to list evangelical Christian, Catholics and orthodox Jews alongside groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The brief does not provide any examples of how evangelical Christians and Catholics are a danger to those serving in the military. However, it offers several examples of Muslim extremists in the military. Among them are:
- Navy petty officer Hassan Abujihad, who emailed classified information to jihadists for possible attacks while serving on a destroyer.
- Ali Abdul Saoud Mohammed, an Army Special Forces instructor at the Special Ops Warfare School at Fort Bragg while simultaneously being a trainer for al-Qaida and traveling overseas to fight with jihadists.
- Sgt Hasan Akbar, who killed two of his fellow soldiers and injured 14 others at a military base in Kuwait when he threw four grenades into three tents where soldiers were sleeping. His reasoning was to prevent the killing of his fellow Muslims.
Conspicuously missing was Muslim Maj. Nidal Hasan, who opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood while allegedly shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Hasan’s rampage left 13 dead and 30 injured.
The Army has gone to great lengths to minimize the Hasan attack, going so far as to call it simply a case of workplace violence, similar to when an employee gets into a fight with a co-worker.
The Army has doubled down on its decision by issuing a report to Congress claiming that recent legislation that would label the Fort Hood shootings a terrorist act in order to help survivors and victim’s families would jeopardize Hasan’s chances of receiving a fair trial.
“Passage of this legislation could directly and indirectly influence potential court-martial panel members, witnesses, or the chain of command, all of whom exercise a critical role under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” the Army said. “Defense counsel will argue that Major Hasan cannot receive a fair trial because a branch of government has indirectly declared that Major Hasan is a terrorist – that he is criminally culpable.”
Crews said the major problem with the training brief is that it relies heavily on material provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has claimed that WND, the Family Research Council and other pro-family groups are hate groups and extremists.
“We’re concerned the use of the SPLC list is not isolated,” Crews said. “The Army should make sure its equal opportunity officers across the military do not fall prey and use this SPLC list that identifies Christian and conservative organizations as hate groups as the basis for their briefing.”