A slideshow presentation shown to US Army Reserve recruits classifies evangelical Christians and Catholics as extremists, thus categorizing them alongside the Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, and the Hamas and Al Qaeda terrorist organizations. Members of the military are prohibited from taking leadership roles in any organization the Pentagon considers 'extremist,' and from distributing related literature, on or off military installations.
The first slide in the presentation issues a warning that “the rise in hate crimes and extremism outside the military may be an indication of internal issues all [armed] services will have to face.” Citing a report by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center report as evidence, the Army Reserve presentation blames “the superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial make-up of America and the prospect of 4 more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.”
The Army Reserve slideshow defined religious extremism as those “beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of a character far removed from the "ordinary."' While the presentation concedes that “ordinary” is a subjective concept, it does condemn religious Americans “who 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 [is] superior to all others.”
Presenters of the slideshow are instructed to read the slides in their entirety. One of the slides lists groups as exemplifying “religious extremism.” Among these are “evangelical Christianity,” “Catholicism,” “Ultra-Orthodox” Judaism, and “Islamophobia.” However, most of the list is characterized by more widely known terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, Sunni Muslims, Hamas, and the Ku Klux Klan.
“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. “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”
Crews also spoke about the sometimes controversial Southern Poverty Law Center. Saying “It also appears that some military entities are using definitions of "hate" and "extreme" from the lists of anti-Christian political organizations,” he added, “'That violates the apolitical stance appropriate for the military.”
The Army Chief of Chaplains has investigated the presentation and claims that it was “an isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army.”
The Army Reserve presentation defines religious extremism as "'beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of a character far removed from the "ordinary."'
The U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains did not immediately respond to a request for comment, according to DailyMail. But the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services said it “is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist.”
“The Archdiocese calls upon the Department of Defense to review these materials," the organization said in a statement, "and to ensure that tax-payer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform.”