Washington, D. C. — Over 40 United States Congressmen have signed a letter calling upon the secretary of the Army to rescind a briefing by an instructor who classified evangelical Christianity and other faiths as “religious extremism” next to Al Qaeda and Hamas.
As previously reported, the training session occurred a year ago in Pennsylvania, and involved an Army Reserve unit that was receiving training on worldwide religious extremism. 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.
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.”
When the training session came to light recently and the Army was made aware of the matter, spokesperson George Wright informed reporters that the briefing was not endorsed by the military and was rather 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 been deleted from the presentation due to a complaint, and that the presenter, who remains unnamed, has since apologized.
However, members of Congress now want an official apology from the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado recently penned a letter to McHugh, which was signed by over 40 other members of Congress.
“We were deeply concerned to learn of an Army Reserve training brief that lists Catholics, evangelical Christians, Sunni Muslims and some Jews in a ‘religious extremism’ category along with groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas and the KKK,” he wrote. “This is astonishing and offensive and we urge you to immediately rescind this briefing.”
“While initial reporting has portrayed this as an isolated incident, we would appreciate a full accounting of this briefing to include who received this briefing, the specific information sources on which the briefing was based, and what the Army is doing to ensure that this sort of offensive briefing is not given again,” the letter continued.
Lamborn stated that while violence is always condemned, not every religion should be painted as extremist because of the acts of a few.
“Our nation needs to have an honest conversation about religious extremism and what we can do to avoid religious violence,” the letter concluded. “However, labeling these major world religions as extremists is wrong and hurtful. We call on you to rescind this briefing and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism.”
Signees of the letter included Representative Duncan Hunter of California, Representative Steve King of Iowa, Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.