Judging from one briefing at Fort Hood in Texas, the Army’s leaders consider evangelical Christians and Tea Party members greater threats to America than radical Muslims.
Soldiers at a pre-deployment briefing on Oct. 17 were told for nearly half an hour how pro-family groups and evangelical Christians were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to them would be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Fox News reported. Hardly a word was spoken about radical Islam.
Meanwhile, following a series of such incidents – including one at Camp Shelby in Mississippi — the Secretary of the Army has ordered the briefings to halt.
Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary, wrote in an op-ed that a soldier who spoke to him about the briefing fears reprisals and wishes to remain anonymous.
“My first concern was if I was going to be in trouble going to church,” the soldier, an evangelical Christian who attended the briefing, told Starnes. “Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? What if I donate to a politician who is a part of the Tea Party movement?”
Michael Berry, a former Marine Corps Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and attorney with the Liberty Institute, is advising the soldier and has begun investigating the incident.
“The American public should be outraged that the U.S. Army is teaching our troops that evangelical Christians and Tea Party members are enemies of America, and that they can be punished for supporting or participating in those groups,” Michael Berry was quoted as saying.
Another soldier who was at the briefing told the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty about what he heard. Todd Starnes reported that the soldier’s recollections were similar to the first soldier.
“I was very shocked and couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” the soldier said. “I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that he believes the Pentagon is pushing an anti-Christian message.
“On the very base that was the site of mass murder carried out by a radicalized Muslim soldier, it is astonishing that it is evangelical groups that are being identified as a ‘threat,’” he told the news organization. “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must immediately intervene to stop this march against the rights and freedom of our soldiers.”
According to Starnes, the soldier was also told at the briefing that the pro-life movement is an example of “radicalization”; evangelical Christians protesting at abortion clinics is the “mobilization stage,” which leads to the bombing of abortion centers.
Tom Rheinlander, the public affairs director at Fort Hood, said that while Fort Hood leadership is investigating the incident, the soldier’s allegations are not true.
“At this time, initial information gathered about the training and what you claim occurred is not substantiated by unit leadership and soldiers present at this training venue,” he said.
This incident is not the first in which the Army classified Christians as extremists. Last April, an Army Reserve briefing pointed to Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of “religious extremism.” Two weeks ago, troops at Camp Shelby were told the American Family Association should be labeled a domestic hate group for advocating for traditional family values.
In both cases, the military said they were isolated incidents with trainers using material not approved by the military.
“How much longer can the Army claim no knowledge or responsibility for these things?” Berry asked Starnes.
“These repeated incidents show either that this training was directed from Army leadership at the Pentagon, or else the Army has a real discipline and leadership problem on its hands because a bunch of rogue soldiers are teaching this nonsense.”
Several US representatives sent a letter to the Pentagon, expressing concern, Starnes said.
“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. It was signed by Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Steve Scalise, John Fleming and Joseph Pitts. “We are very troubled.”
After the latest incident, Army Sec. John McHugh spoke up, ordering a halt to such briefings.
“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,” he wrote to military leaders.