Two weeks ago, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, counter-intelligence officers presented a briefing that identified the American Family Association – a non-profit Christian organization – as a "domestic hate group." This was not the first time something bizarre like this had happened. On another army base, evangelical Christians and Catholics were listed as prime examples of religious extremism. On yet another, the Founding Fathers were portrayed as extreme.
Then, last week, a similar report came out about a briefing at Fort Hood in Texas where Tea Party supporters, in addition to evangelical Christians, were labeled as extremists.
Each time, senior military officials downplayed the shocking classifications as isolated incidents. But a string of incidents reflect a pattern.
Acknowledging the concern, the Secretary of the Army has recently ordered all briefings on extremist organizations and activities to cease until they can get a handle on the situation.
The question does beg answering: Why is our military accusing Christians and evangelical ministries of being hate groups?
To be sure, the U.S. Army has received some bad intelligence. Its primary resource appears to be the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an entity that leans far to the left and postures itself as watchdog over whatever it depicts as "hate" groups.
The Department of Defense, through the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, produces a training document addressing "extremism." SPLC is shown in this document as an approved source of information.
Regrettably, the U.S. Army has accepted SPLC's characterization of extremism without consideration of the bias behind it.
The American Family Association and another politically active Christian group, the Family Research Council, are listed next to groups like the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan in SPLC's compilation of "hate" groups on its "hate" map, just for speaking biblical truth about homosexuality.
As Tim Wildmon, President of AFA, wrote in explanation, "The truth is that the American Family Association doesn't hate anyone. We love everyone, including homosexuals, enough to tell them the truth about the moral, spiritual, and physical dangers of homosexual conduct. Disagreement about the normalizing of homosexual behavior is not hate; it is simply disagreement."
Ironically, it was the SPLC's classification of the Family Research Council as a hate group that led to the FRC being targeted in an act of domestic terrorism by a homosexual activist who has been found guilty of attempting a mass shooting at their headquarters – with the intent of killing everyone in the building and sticking a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in their mouths.
It's a wonder SPLC hasn't placed themselves on the hate map.
But aside from questionable intelligence, the military could also blame its new-found view on homosexuality for this deplorable treatment of Christians.
For many years, the U.S. Army has maintained a policy precluding personnel from participating in extremist organizations and activities, defined to include those that advocate intolerance. But while the policy makes sense in terms of race or gender, it goes awry in encompassing those who have religious convictions about sexual behavior.
Evangelical Christians, Catholics and ministries linked to the Christian faith adhere to the belief that homosexual conduct is immoral. They believe marriage ought to be reserved for one man and one woman. Some – like SPLC – claim these earnestly held, biblically based beliefs demonstrate "hatred" and "intolerance."
Taking this opportunity to pause and get to the root of the problem, the U.S. Army would do well to dump SPLC and obtain more independently-minded resources, but it should also re-evaluate the meaning of terms like extreme and intolerance in application of its policy.
In truth, it is extreme and intolerant to discriminate against the Christian faith.