It’s one of those things that makes you wonder just what they’re hoping to slip past us.
Thanks to the Archdiocese for the Military Service, USA, we now know that some Army Reserve training material lists Catholicism along with other alleged examples of “Religious Extremism,” along with such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quaeda, and Hamas. (Evangelical Christianity and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism also made the list.) And this isn’t just a rumor, it’s right there on slide #24.
According to the introductory slide of the training document:
The number of hate groups, extremists and anti‐govt organizations in the U.S. has continued to grow over the past three years, according to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They increased to 1,018 in 2011, up from 1,002 in 2010 and 602 in 2000.
The striking rise is fueled by 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 rise in hate crimes and extremism outside the military may be an indication of internal issues all services will have to face.
The Archdiocese for Military Service has called on the U.S. Defense Department to review the training manual.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services and Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty recently became aware of a U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief that expressly listed “Catholicism,” “Evangelical Christianity” and other religious groups as examples of “religious extremism” alongside groups such as “Al Qaeda”, “Hamas” and the “KKK.”The Archdiocese is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist.According to an investigation and reply from the Army Chief of Chaplains office, the training in question appears to have been an isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army. The Archdiocese and the Chaplain Alliance explained that the Army can and should take steps to prevent such incidents in the future.The Archdiocese calls upon the Department of Defense to review these materials and to ensure that tax-payer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform.
Extremism is a complex phenomenon; it is defined as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of a character far removed from the “ordinary.” Because “ordinary” is subjective, no religious group would label itself extreme or its doctrine “extremism.” However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has some followers that 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 superior to all others.
So, according to this definition, I can see why we’re included. Catholics do claim that they have the fullness of truth, and have always believed that (despite a great deal of nuance) “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” So there you have it. We’re extremists.
This isn’t the last time we’ll see something like this. Good for the Military Archdiocese for the catch, and good for the Army for backtracking. But as our faith and religious liberty continues to come under assault, don’t be surprised if Catholics — and our politically incorrect views on abortion, gay marriage, and more — wind up on lists like this over and over again.
UPDATE – 4/8/2013 @ 12:30PM
This post originally referred to the training material in question as an Army “manual” - some clarifications have been made in the comments about the various levels of Army training materials and manuals and where this material falls in that hierarchy in terms of its authority.
Since my use of the term training “manual” in the original post implied, to those who understand the Army’s process for such things, that this had official sanction from the higher echelons of the Army, I have revised the post to reflect this change in terminology from “manual” to “material.” The material in question (a Powerpoint presentation) appears to have been produced on a local level without official sanction from the Army chain of command and provided to a particular reserve unit. It was not widely disseminated, and the offending slides have reportedly been removed from any future use of the presentation.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said that “It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.” Further:
Crews said he is extremely disappointed in the military’s handling of the incident and said they need to fix the “gross distortions presented in the briefing.
“Those soldiers who were presented this material – they need to have a new briefing with corrected materials,” Crews said. “They need to undo the damage that was done.”
He also wants the military to consult with chaplains about matters involving religion.
“All religious issues of this sort in the U.S. military should be channeled first through the Chiefs of Chaplains offices for review,” he said. “Do they really want to classify evangelicals and the Catholic Church as extremist groups?”
Thank you to the readers who provided clarification on the matter. There’s still cause for concern — particularly in the light of other troubling reports that have come out from the US government in recent years — which is why I believe media attention on this story, and the subsequent response from the Army, is important.