The Pentagon has announced it’s putting a halt to U.S. Army briefings that label evangelicals and pro-family organizations, including the American Family Association, as domestic hate groups. But a Christian law firm still intends to investigate the latest such training briefing that occurred at Ft. Hood, Texas.
During a pre-deployment briefing, soldiers at Ft. Hood were told that evangelical Christians and tea party members are a threat to the nation. Soldiers were also warned that donating to those groups would subject them to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Todd Starnes of Fox News broke the story October 23 after a Ft. Hood soldier contacted him and described the briefing performed by a counter-intelligence officer.
Mike Berry of Liberty Institute, which is investigating the briefing, says the Ft. Hood soldiers were given a threat assessment by the officer.
“He in essence instructed about a hundred soldiers down there that evangelical Christians and members of the tea party [movement] could be potentially 'domestic terror threats' because, in the instructor's words, they were tearing America apart,” Berry tells OneNewNow.
Berry was referring to part of the Starnes’ story in which the Army officer reportedly spent time discussing how evangelical groups such as the American Family Association are "tearing the country apart."
Just days earlier, soldiers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were told that AFA should be classified as a domestic hate group because it advocates family values. Starnes broke that story, too, which has been reported on OneNewsNow.
The U.S. Army has claimed both briefings, despite their identical topics and accusations, were not condoned by the Army.
Stand-down order issued, applauded
Starnes has since learned that the Secretary of the Army has ordered military leaders to halt all briefings that have labeled evangelical Christian groups as domestic hate groups. Bob Maginnis, a senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council, says the directive by Army Secretary John McHugh will chill any temptation to make such allegations against evangelical groups.
"I cannot imagine any of the senior leadership in the Army saying that this is acceptable behavior," he tells OneNewsNow. "But clearly, the speakers felt that they had justification - and that is very disturbing if they feel that the culture is now permissive enough so that you can identify evangelical groups and tea party groups as adversaries of the American people, much less the U.S. Army."
Maginnis believes that the lecturers were encouraged by anti-Christian policies that have been pushed by the White House. "They've taken those statements by the administration as an opportunity, as a license to go after people who oppose him politically," he states.
Still, Maginnis is encouraged that McHugh wrote in the memo that "the groups identified in the instruction were not 'extremist' organizations as that term is defined in Army Regulation."
Col. Ron Crews (USA-Ret.) executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, also welcomes the Army secretary's decision.
"I am grateful that the Secretary of the Army has issued a stand-down order, as they call it in the military, to stop the briefs until they can examine exactly what is being taught and shared at those briefs ...," he remarks.
Crews believes all military personnel must stop using the Southern Poverty Law Center as a reliable source for information on alleged hate groups.
"And we're asking the secretary of the army to cease use of the SPLC because of the way they have denigrated organizations like the American Family Association, Family Research Center, and even just evangelical Christians and others who are taking a stand for faith," the retired chaplain adds.
Crews is confident the stand-down order will be obeyed.
Irony re: Ft. Hood incident
Regarding the Ft. Hood briefing, Berry says barely a word was said about Islamic extremism – despite the fact that Ft. Hood was the site of the 2009 terrorist attack perpetrated by Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and professed Muslim.
Berry said: "The White House refused to classify what Major Hasan did as an act of terror and they called it an act of ‘workplace violence.’”
Not only has the White House refused to admit Hasan committed terrorism, “they're now saying that evangelical Christians and tea party members are the ones in fact who they consider to be domestic terror threats,” Berry notes.
In a radio interview on American Family Radio, now on OneNewsNow, Starnes said he obtained a U.S. Army guide and suggested that Americans would be "dumbfounded" to learn what is being taught to the U.S. military.