(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Conservatives have called on the U.S. military to stop using Southern Poverty Law Center materials for certain classes due to their content, such as calling some Christian organizations "hate groups" for their stance on LGBT issues.
In a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier this month, groups including the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty and the Family Research Council expressed their concern about the SPLC materials.
"As your Department considers a review of current DOD training resources, it is imperative that the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) ensure future materials do not rely on information from organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) or any others that engage in groundless and highly pejorative mischaracterizations of long-standing ministries and organizations for their own political purposes," reads the letter, in part.
The letter specifically referenced the August 2012 shooting at the FRC office in Washington, D.C. by Floyd Lee Corkins.
"Floyd Lee Corkins admitted he used SPLC's website to target the Family Research Council prior to his attack on the organization," reads the letter.
"Despite this damning tie between the Southern Poverty Law Center and actual extremists, it is well documented that individual installation EO briefings continue to draw upon SPLC data and talking points."
Included among the 16 signatories were retired Lt. General William G. Boykin, FRC executive vice president; L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center; Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel; and Retired U.S. Army chaplain Col. Ronald A Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
Crews said in an interview with The Christian Post that it was his organization that had first caught wind of the SPLC material describing various Christian conservative groups as being labeled as "hate groups."
Crews also told CP that while the groups had heard "nothing at this point" in response to their letter to Hagel, the military was taking into consideration their concerns.
"We do know that the secretary of the Army and then later the Department of Defense issued a statement out to the force, to our military, to stop these kinds of training events until they could investigate," said Crews.
"And so we commend those who made that decision because it was the right thing to do. Our letter is to encourage them during this investigation to look very closely at the materials that are being used."
Mark Potok of the SPLC told CP that his organization had no comment beyond what was already available on their website.
At an entry on their Hatewatch blog, Josh Glasstetter of the SPLC defended the usage of SPLC materials that designated the American Family Association as a "hate group."
"Service members should not be actively participating in groups that promote and create such barriers, such as the AFA, which wants to remove women, Muslims and LGBT people from the military," wrote Glasstetter.
"[Army Secretary John McHugh] should order a fuller examination of the military's standards on extremist organizations, and implement policies and training materials that truly protect and promote equal opportunity."
Glasstetter also stressed that given their message the AFA should not be equated with overall American Christianity.
"SPLC's designation of AFA as a hate group had nothing to do with biblical beliefs or opposition to same-sex marriage and everything to do with the group's demonization and lies about LGBT people," wrote Glasstetter.