US Army Orders Halt to Christian Extremist Briefings
The Liberty Institute, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, and the Family Research Council — all members of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition — successfully waged a campaign to have the US Army order an end to briefings which labeled mainstream Christian groups “extremist.”
As reported by Todd Starnes at FoxNews:
“On several occasions over the past few months, media accounts have highlighted instances of Army instructors supplementing programs of instruction and including information or material that is inaccurate, objectionable and otherwise inconsistent with current Army policy,” Army Sec. John McHugh wrote to military leaders in a memorandum I obtained.
McHugh “directed that Army leaders cease all briefings, command presentations or training on the subject of extremist organizations or activities until that program of instruction and training has been created and disseminated,” Army spokesman Col. David Patterson, Jr., tells me.
Multiple briefings were presented as evidence of a widespread problem of Equal Opportunity officers calling Christians “extremists.” Each time, the Army responded by saying it was an “isolated incident.” It appears Secretary McHugh found a trend in those incidents. The most recent briefing had resulted in five Congressman sending a letter to the Army expressing concern:
“This most recent mislabeling of a Christian organization reflects what appears to be a troubling trend of religious intolerance in the military,” Rep. Doug Lamborn wrote in a letter signed by Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Steve Scalise, John Fleming and Joseph Pitts. “We are very troubled.”
McHugh’s letter didn’t mince words or otherwise imply the Army was reacting only to false media reports. He bluntly said
the instructors used material that is “inaccurate, objectionable and otherwise inconsistent with current Army policy…”
“The groups identified in the instruction were not ‘extremist’ organizations as that term is defined in Army Regulation,” McHugh wrote in his memorandum.
The US military had also been accused of using the Southern Poverty Law Center, a private left-leaning group, as an official resource. The Army now says that earlier this year the use of outside groups for such information was “cautioned” against:
commanders and other leaders were cautioned that they should not use lists of ‘extremists,’ ‘hate groups,’ ‘radical factions’ or the like compiled by any outside non-governmental groups or organizations for briefings, command presentations, or as a shortcut to determining if a group or activity is considered to be extremist.”
The SPLC is apparently still listed as a resource in the Equal Opportunity course at Patrick AFB.
Christians in the US military had expressed concern that their religious beliefs were being declared inconsistent with military values. One specifically noted that the briefers indicated he was prohibited from contributing to these Christian “hate” groups — which he currently did.
Thus, the impact to religious liberty in the military was not hypothetical. The RMRF coalition has applauded the Army’s stand down order.
One might think that Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation were absent in this victory for religious freedom in the US military. In fact, Weinstein did speak out — in support of the SPLC labeling those Christian “hate” groups and the now-withdrawn Army statements.
While the RMRF coalition defended military religious liberty, Weinstein’s “charity” explicitly opposed religious freedom in the military — because it involved the liberty of Christians.
This decision by the US Army marks only Weinstein’s most recent defeat.