U.S. Army classifies Christian ministry as 'domestic hate group'

U.S. Army classifies Christian ministry as 'domestic hate group'

Army slide show presentation on religious hate group“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

The words are Barack Obama’s. They are excerpted from a statement he made on the morning of Sept. 12, 2012. The night before Islamic terrorists had stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, setting fire to the outpost and brutally murdering four members of the American diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Ironic that Obama would use this occasion to warn both benches? Granted, his very next sentence affirmed that there was “absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence,” but what would possess the President of the United States to make an illusion to religious tolerance in his first remarks to the American people about an act of savagery rooted in religious intolerance?

The thought came to mind as I read an exclusive report by Fox News Insider’s Todd Starnes (h/t Barracuda Brigade) from last Monday. Starnes writes:

Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.

The briefing was held at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and listed the AFA alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam.

A soldier who attended the briefing contacted me and sent me a photograph of a slide show presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group. Under the AFA headline is a photograph of Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps holding a sign reading ‘No special law for f***.’

American Family Association has absolutely no affiliation with the controversial church group known for picketing the funerals of American service members.

‘I had to show Americans what our soldiers are now being taught,’ said the soldier who asked not to be identified. ‘I couldn’t just let this one pass.’

The soldier said a chaplain interrupted the briefing and challenged the instructor’s assertion that AFA is a hate group.

‘The instructor said AFA could be considered a hate group because they don’t like gays,’ the soldier told me. ‘The slide was talking about how AFA refers to gays as sinners and heathens and derogatory terms.’

The soldier, who is an evangelical Christian, said the chaplain defended the Christian ministry.

‘He kept asking the instructor, ‘Are you sure about that, son? Are you sure about that?’’ he said, recalling the back and forth.

Later in the briefing, the soldiers were reportedly told that they could face punishment for participating in organizations that are considered hate groups.

The soldier reached out to Starnes out of fear of reprisal for his past financial support of AFA. He is quoted as saying, “I donate to AFA as often as I can. Am I going to be punished? I listen to American Family Radio all day. If they hear it on my radio, will I be faced with a Uniformed Code of Military Justice charge?”

Ultimately, the soldier may have less reason to fret over potential legal action than the Army. Last Tuesday, World Net Daily reported that AFA is considering suing on the grounds of defamation. For its part, the Army has already begun to walk back its stated position on the religious group. A spokesman by the name of George Wright confessed that the misinformation about AFA’s acitivites was “acquired from an Internet search,” He added that the briefing at Camp Shelby was not “approved by senior Army leaders, senior equal opportunity counselors or judge-advocate personnel.”

Regardless of the outcome, Starnes notes that this is not the first time the Army has accused conservative Christian groups of being domestic hate groups — that earlier this year, evangelical Christians and Catholics were classified as “religious extremists.”

Just to put this story in context, in 2011, the Defense Department, feeling pressure from a real religious extremist group, the Council on American-Islamic Relation, authorized the wearing of hijabs and turbans by military cadets.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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