WASHINGTON — The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services has said it is “astounded” at a U.S. Army Reserve training brief that listed Catholics alongside “violent and extremist” groups.
“The archdiocese calls upon the Department of Defense to review these materials and to ensure that taxpayer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform,” the archdiocese said April 4.
In its statement, the archdiocese noted that an investigation and reply from the Army chief of chaplains office said the training “appears to have been an isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army.”
The presentation, titled “Extremism & Extremist Organizations,” discussed religious extremism in a presentation that covered militias, neo-Nazis, Islamic extremism, terrorism and gangs.
One slide, titled “Religious Extremism,” listed Catholicism and evangelical Christianity, along with groups including al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan.
The presentation described extremism as a “complex phenomenon” defined by beliefs, attitudes or feelings “far removed from the ‘ordinary.’” It said religious extremism is not limited to any religion, ethnic group or region.
“Every religion has some followers who 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 (is) superior to all others,” the slide said.
The presentation cited sources such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, and some of its language appeared to be taken from the website Wikipedia.
The Army removed the slide after complaints.
A U.S. Army spokesperson told The Washington Times that the presentation was produced by an individual without the knowledge or permission of anyone in the chain of command.
The person who created the presentation “was not a subject-matter expert and produced the material after conducting Internet research,” the spokesperson said.
The presentation also drew criticism from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, a non-denominational group of military chaplains.
The archdiocese said it and the Chaplain Alliance told the Army that it “can and should take steps to prevent such incidents in the future.”
The Archdiocese for the Military Services has endorsed priests at more than 220 U.S. military installations in 29 countries, serving an estimated 1.8 million Catholics worldwide.