A U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief describes "Evangelical Christianity" and "Catholicism" as examples of "religious extremism," according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, who shared a copy of the documents with The Christian Post.
"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," reads the first page of the slide presentation labeled "Extremism & Extremist Organizations."
Listed alongside "extremist" groups and organizations like the Klu Klux Klan and al-Qaida, the U.S. Army slideshow has "Evangelical Christianity" as the first bullet, followed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and farther down on the slide, Catholicism.
According to the training documents, "Extremism is a complex phenomenon" that is present in every religion due to "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."
"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," retired Col. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a statement that included a link to controversial Power Point presentation. Crews reportedly was alerted to the training material by a concerned soldier.
There are no dates on the slides to indicate when the training might have been presented to soldiers, but the Army Chief of Chaplains office has said that the training was an isolated incident and the slides were not sanctioned by the U.S. Army Department. A separate Army spokesman told the Navy Times that the materials were presented last year to soldiers and once discovered, were discarded.
"The archdiocese is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist," the Archdiocese for the Military Services said in a statement, as reported by World Magazine. Roman Catholics make up 20 percent of active-duty members of the military, while other faith groups and denominations, such as Muslims, Buddhists and Southern Baptists, are less than 2 percent of the U.S. military.
"It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization. It also appears that some military entities are using definitions of 'hate' and 'extreme' from the lists of anti-Christian political organizations. That violates the apolitical stance appropriate for the military," added Col. Crews.
One "anti-Christian political organization" in question is the Southern Poverty Law Center, cited as a source in the training documents. The SPLC has drawn criticism from conservatives over its designation of faith-based organizations as "hate groups," such as the case with nonprofit, pro-family organization the Family Research Council. On its current list of 1,007 "known hate groups operating across the country," the SPLC cites the Washington, D.C.-based group as "anti-gay" due to its biblical views on marriage and sexuality.