How Does the Army Spell Extremism? S-P-L-C

Tony Perkins | January 7, 2014

The United States may not negotiate with terrorists, but it certainly hasn’t minded using curriculum tied to them in official Army briefings. Despite being linked in federal court to a case of domestic terrorism, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been a go-to “source” of the Obama Pentagon in a string of military training sessions. Americans saw the fruits of that partnership in October, when base instructors shocked service members by warning them that Christians and conservatives were “extremists” who posed a threat to the nation. In subsequent briefings, groups like American Family Association (AFA) were specifically targeted as “hateful,” using propaganda pulled directly from SPLC’s website (the same website, incidentally, that directed shooter Floyd Corkins to FRC’s front door).

Outraged, soldiers contacted Fox News’s Todd Starnes and leaked pictures of the training’s PowerPoint slides. The backlash was so overwhelming that Army Secretary John McHugh sent a branch-wide memo ordering leaders to stop characterizing evangelical Christians and their organizations as domestic hate groups. It was a significant victory — not just for our troops, but for religious liberty.

Now, three months later, the Army is taking its vigilance to new heights. Before Christmas, FRC and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and asked the military to distance itself from the anti-faith radicals at the SPLC (which ironically, does meet the extremist standards the Army uses). “Despite the damning tie between the Southern Poverty Law Center and [terrorists like Floyd Corkins], it is well documented that individual installation EO briefings continue to draw upon SPLC data and talking points.” Over the holidays, the Army replied to FRC with the response we’d been hoping for. “Please know that none of the incidents identified in your letter are condoned nor reflective of our military,” it read. “The Army has taken corrective measures that resolve the training issues associated with your concerns. We, along with the Services, are committed to ensuring that all training accurately reflects the First Amendment rights of military personnel.”

The letter, signed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, makes it clear that the military is beginning to distance itself from SPLC as a legitimate source of information. By this statement, at least one branch of the military is making it clear that they won’t take advice on “extremism” from terrorist-inspiring SPLC. As far as the Army is concerned, activist groups can label people whatever they want — but they can no longer use the government as leverage to enforce their stereotyping. “This most recent mislabeling of Christian organization[s] reflects what appears to be a troubling trend of religious intolerance in the military,” Congressman Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) said. A trend, we hope, this letter starts to reverse.