The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty revealed that on Monday it received more than 1,500 pages of documents confirming that the Department of Defense classified religious groups such as Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, and Mormons as religious "extremists" similar to Al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan in training materials.
"Men and women of faith who have served the military faithfully for centuries shouldn't be likened to those who have regularly threatened the peace and security of the United States," said Chaplain (Col.) Ron Crews, USAR retired, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
"The materials we have received verify that the military views the Southern Poverty Law Center as a 'reliable source' for Equal Opportunity briefings even though it has engaged in a pattern of labeling evangelical Christians, Catholics, and other conservative and orthodox faith groups as 'extremists.' The documents demonstrate that the Department of Defense has chosen to rely on these biased SPLC materials to train Equal Opportunity Officers in the military."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in 1971 and headquartered in Alabama, has labeled a number of organizations with conservative ideals as "hate groups," including the Family Research Council.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty found evidence earlier this year that showed that U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training briefs listed Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as "religious extremism," with a slide putting them alongside groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.
"The number of hate groups, extremists and anti‐govt organizations in the U.S. has continued to grow over the past three years, according to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They increased to 1,018 in 2011, up from 1,002 in 2010 and 602 in 2000," a slide presentation labeled "Extremism & Extremist Organizations" reads.
After the Chaplain Alliance obtained those slides, it filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain all materials relating to the information soldiers have been given during military training.
"The materials we obtained establish that the U.S. military violated its appropriate apolitical stance and engaged in a dishonorable mischaracterization of multiple faith groups. Its actions harm and threaten the rights of the countless men and women defending our country who are members of these various faiths," Crews explained.
The Chaplain Alliance executive director called on the military to make sure that no future briefings rely on materials provided by the SPLC or similar groups who place such faith groups on the same standing as extremists and terrorists.