During a military training session in Pennsylvania, an unnamed United States Army instructor listed evangelical Christianity as an example of religious extremism along with Al Qaeda and Hamas.
While the session reportedly occurred over a year ago, the matter is just now coming to light. It involved a briefing with an Army Reserve Unit that was receiving training on extremism around the world.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) obtained a copy of the Power Point presentation, which includes a slide that lists 18 religious groups that the instructor deemed to be extremist. While it is not known whether the groups were ordered in relation to their severity, evangelical Christianity appears first on the list, followed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, a group called “Christian Identity,” Al Qaeda and Hamas.
“Extremism is a complex phenomenon; it is defined as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of a character far removed from the ‘ordinary,’” the slide states. “Because ‘ordinary’ is subjective, no religious group would label itself extreme or its doctrine ‘extremism.’ However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has 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.”
“Extremist organizations follow ideologies which are considered extreme by societal norms,” another slide outlines. “[A]nd we are talking about this today because individuals who hold extremist views that conflict with Army Values are sometimes inadvertently recruited.”
Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty told reporter Todd Starnes that he was disturbed by the inclusion of evangelical Christians in the presentation.
“We find this offensive to have evangelical Christians … to be listed among known terrorist groups,” he stated. “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”
Army representative George Wright stated that the slide was not endorsed by the military and was an individual effort.
“This slide was not produced by the Army and certainly does not reflect our policy or doctrine,” he said. “It was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command’s knowledge or permission.”
Wright also noted that the slide has now been deleted from the presentation due to a complaint. The presenter, who remains unnamed, has since apologized.
One of the soldiers who was present at the training briefing requested copies
“He considers himself an evangelical Christian and did not appreciate being classified with terrorists,” Crews outlined. “There was a pervasive attitude in the presentation that anything associated with religion is an extremist.”
The presentation had utilized information and data collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that classifies “hate groups” throughout the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center came under criticism last year after it branded the Christian non-profit lobbying group Family Research Council as a “hate group” for holding to a Biblical viewpoint on the institution of marriage. It denies, however, that all evangelical Christians are considered “hate groups.”