Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was questioned by Congressman Randy Forbes about the Department of Defense’s attitude toward Christianity and religious freedom during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. The questions came after an email was sent out by Army officer, Lt. Col. Jack Rich to subordinates that labeled the American Family Association and the Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups,” and which warned those in the military to monitor soldiers who might be supportive of the organizations largely because of their opposition to homosexual marriage.
At least a dozen members of Congress have demanded that the Army apologize for the labeling. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association said, “We get labeled by watchdog groups every day just because we stand for the very freedoms which our U.S. military defends. For Christians and Christian organizations to be criticized by the U.S. Army is reprehensible. We have always worked to support the military, urging Americans to encourage, uphold and honor our troops. This is a slap in the face to all Christians. Our soldiers, who defend our constitutional freedoms, have been disgraced by the very government they serve. They deserve an apology as does every Christian ally organization.”
Army spokesman George Wright from the Pentagon called the email an “isolated” incident that does not reflect the U.S. Army’s position on Christianity. However, this is just one incident of military branding Christianity and Catholicism alongside al Qaida, Hamas, and the Ku Klux Klan as examples of “extremism.”
Wright states, “The notion that the Army is taking an anti-religion or anti-Christian stance is contrary to any of our policies, doctrines and regulations. Any belief that the Army is out to label religious groups in a negative manner is without warrant.”
Not everyone agrees with Wright, however. Ron Crews is the executive director of the Chaplain’s Alliance, and he told FOX News that his organization hears regularly from military personnel who are struggling with issues of religious suppression in the military.
Some of the examples of this suppression are:
- An order issued that commanders can no longer inform their command of approved programs in the chaplain’s office.
- A reportanother that the Department of the Navy was prohibiting Bibles from being used in Walter Reed hospital.
- He also inquired about a training program where evangelical Christians, Catholics and Mormons were listed in the same category of religious extremism as al-Qaida.
- Congressman Forbes also asked why service members were allowed to march in uniform
Forbes ended his questioning during the hearing by saying, “I just can’t understand why the department is issuing orders prohibiting people in the chain of command from talking about chaplain’s programs supporting faith, but they’re not prohibiting people in the chain of command from making anti-faith statements and doing anti-faith training?”
Hagel stated that he would obtain more information about these incidences and that “…this should not be happening.”
The American Family Association, other conservative Groups and the legislators involved expect an apology from the U.S. Army.