- (Photo: AP Images / Anja Niedringhaus)
The U.S. Army has distanced itself from a presentation labeling a Christian conservative advocacy organization, the American Family Association (AFA), a domestic hate group.
"The slide was not produced by the Army and it does not reflect our policy or doctrine," said Troy Rolan, a U.S. Army spokesperson, in a press release, referring to a slide shown to several dozens of U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops earlier this month, titled "American Family Association" and showing an image of Westboro Baptist Church Pastor Fred Phelps holding a sign that read "No special law for f***."
The U.S. Army confirmed that its contents had not been screened by any senior officials, prior to the presentation.
"It was produced by a soldier conducting a briefing which included info acquired from an internet search. Info was not pulled from official Army sources, nor was it approved by senior Army leaders, senior equal opportunity counselors or judge-advocate personnel," Rolan wrote.
The U.S. Army also said that it had updated the briefing, removing references to the AFA and mentioned that it would inform soldiers that the AFA had been incorrectly placed on the list that included radical groups like the KKK, Black Panthers and Nation of Islam. Soldiers had also been informed that they could be punished for participation or involvement in these groups.
Immediately after a solider in attendance reported the inclusion of the AFA to Fox News, the AFA condemned the categorization.
"This mischaracterization of AFA is reprehensible and inexcusable. AFA has many military members who support our ministry and know these accusations are false and misleading," it said in a press release.
It also denied any connection between it and the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.
"Your AFA does not condone the actions of Phelps and his followers, nor have we ever advocated hatred towards anyone, even those we don't agree with," it said.
Tim Wildmon, AFA's president said that this had not been the first time that incorrect information about the organization had been disseminated.
"We have documented cases of this type of false assertions against AFA being used in military training resources on other bases," Wildmon wrote in a press release.
He also added that it was "critical that the Pentagon and those who train our military personnel be clearly instructed to discount and refrain from using any information that they have not verified."