The U.S. Army listed Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of religious extremism along with Al Qaeda and Hamas during a briefing with an Army Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania, Fox News has learned.
“We find this offensive to have Evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church to be listed among known terrorist groups,” said Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”
The incident occurred during an Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief on extremism. Topping the list is Evangelical Christianity. Other organizations listed included Catholicism, Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims, and Nation of Islam.
The military also listed “Islamophobia” as a form of religious extremism.
Army spokesman George Wright told Fox News that the briefing happened last year and is just now coming to light.
This was an “isolated incident not condoned by the Dept. of the Army,” he said.
“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 said after the complaint was lodged, the presenter deleted the slide, and apologized.
“We consider the matter closed,” he said.
The incident was made public by a soldier who attended the briefing. He asked for copies of the presentation and sent them to the Chaplain Alliance.
“He considers himself an evangelical Christian and did not appreciate being classified with terrorists,” Crews told Fox News. “There was a pervasive attitude in the presentation that anything associated with religion is an extremist.”
The Archdiocese for the Military Services was shocked to learn that the Army considered Catholicism to be an example of extremism.
“The Archdiocese is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist,” the Archdiocese said in a statement.
They want the Dept. of Defense to “ensure that taxpayer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform.”
“In the notes it was clearly stated that the presenter was not a subject matter expert, and produced the material after conducting Internet research,” Wright said.
So if the presenter was not an expert, what were they doing presenting the material, Crews asked.
He said he had a chance to speak with the officer who conducted the briefing and she told him that she got her information from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Why is there such dependence upon the work of the SPLC to determine hate groups and extremist groups,” Crews said. “It 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.”
But Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Fox News they did not provide the military with any list about religious extremism.
“It’s emphatically – 100 percent false,” Potok said.
He said the SPLC has never labeled Evangelical Christianity or Catholicism as extremist groups.
Crews said he is extremely disappointed in the military’s handling of the incident and said they need to fix the “gross distortions presented in the briefing.
“Those soldiers who were presented this material – they need to have a new briefing with corrected materials,” Crews said. “They need to undo the damage that was done.”
He also wants the military to consult with chaplains about matters involving religion.
“All religious issues of this sort in the U.S. military should be channeled first through the Chiefs of Chaplains offices for review,” he said. “Do they really want to classify evangelicals and the Catholic Church as extremist groups?”