An Army official at the Pentagon says a slide in a recent briefing for soldiers that disparaged a national pro-family group as a “hate group” doesn't reflect Army policy or doctrine. The leader of that group, however, remains skeptical - and says legal action against the military may be forthcoming.
UPDATE: Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes says Army trainers are being told the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center is a "valuable resource" to use in preparing training materials. Read more...
The briefing at Camp Shelby, Mississippi – brought to light in recent days by Fox News and the American Family Association, the targeted pro-family group – identified AFA as a “domestic hate group” alongside groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam.
On Tuesday, a statement from George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, included the following:
“The slide was not produced by the Army and it does not reflect our policy or doctrine. It was produced by a soldier conducting a briefing which included info acquired from an internet search. Info was not pulled from official Army sources, nor was it approved by senior Army leaders, senior equal opportunity counselors or judge-advocate personnel.
“The Soldier, after being challenged on the information, recognized that the information was incorrect. The briefing has been updated and any reference to American Family Association has been removed.”
AFA president Tim Wildmon, however, remains skeptical. “We’re hearing from too many people across the country who’ve witnessed these training sessions,” he tells Fox News. “We know this is going on in the Army and the Air Force."
And the AFA leader says his organization may file a defamation lawsuit against the military. “We are probably going to be taking legal action,” he says. “The Army has smeared us. They’ve defamed the American Family Association.”
The Army is going to have to "fess up," says Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser in an interview with Fox News' Todd Starnes. "For them to keep saying there are just a bunch of rogue instructors out there is either evidence they have a massive disciplinary problem or they are full of baloney."
AFA has been consulting with Liberty Institute about possible legal action.
Boykin: ‘Evil’ must stop
A retired Army lieutenant general is furious with the news of a mandatory training session that branded the American Family Association and others as “domestic hate groups.” Jerry Boykin, now executive vice president at the Family Research Council, spoke Wednesday on American Family Radio.
"The commander who was responsible for that mandatory training session should be held accountable, as should the instructor,” said Boykin. “They are using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center which is an evil, irresponsible, anti-Christian group that has appointed themselves to be the identifiers of hate groups in this country. It's just evil."
This was not an isolated incident; in fact, Boykin said there is a pattern of this happening.
"There was an Army Reserve unit up in Pennsylvanian that did exactly the same thing – and then there was a battalion commander at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who put out a broad email to all of his subordinates telling them to stay away from organizations that are extremists, like American Family Association and the Family Research Council. This has to stop."
According to the retired Army officer, if incidents like the one at Camp Shelby continue, it will inevitably harm the military – both in retention and recruiting.
"It's going to destroy retention; in other words, retaining those professionals who would stay for a 20- to 30-year career – and it's going to destroy recruiting because mom and dad across America are not going to want their sons and daughters joining a military where they will not be able to practice and live their faith.”
Family Research Council has posted an online petition for individuals who wish to take action in light of the U.S. military labeling groups like AFA and FRC as domestic hate groups. The petition is essentially a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demanding that persecution of Christians in the U.S. military stop.
Editor's Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates OneNewsNow.com.