A U.S. Army Reserve training brief on extremism and extremist organizations puts evangelical Christianity at the top of the list of groups soldiers should watch out for, and avoid.
According to the Power Point presentation, obtained and posted online by legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania considers evangelical Christians, Catholics, and Mormons as dangerous as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.
The text accompanying the slide listing “extremist” groups defines extremism as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and actions far removed from the ordinary:
Because “ordinary” is subjective, no religious group would label itself extreme or its doctrine “extremism.” However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only “right way” and that all others are practicing their faith the “wrong way,” seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services, which endorses priests to work in the military and at VA Medical Centers, chastised the Army for the presentation in a statement issued Thursday: “The Archdiocese is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist.”
The list of groups used in the presentation appears to have come from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that has applied a “hate group” label to Christian organizations based on their beliefs about homosexuality.
According to the archdiocese, the Army Chief of Chaplains office investigated the training module and found it an isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army. It urged the military’s commanders to take steps to prevent similar training sessions in the future.
George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, confirmed the presentation was produced by an individual without consent from or knowledge of the Army's chain of command. The presentation is more than a year old, Wright said: "After receiving a single complaint following the presentation, this person deleted the slide, and it was never again shown. … This person has apologized for any offense it may have caused, and we consider the matter closed."
In addition to labeling evangelical Protestants and Catholics as extremists, the training module said soldiers were prohibited from supporting “extremist organizations” by attending public rallies and meetings or taking leadership roles in the groups.
Chaplain Ron Crews, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and the executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, also condemned the presentation.
“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,” he said in a statement. “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”