A presenter at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss., reportedly told troops during a briefing last week that The American Family Association (AFA), a conservative Christian non-profit, is a domestic hate group, essentially comparing it to The Nation of Islam, the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers.
Conservative commentator Todd Starnes reports that ”several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops” were at the meeting when a slide with the AFA’s name, description and designation was shown.
“I had to show Americans what our soldiers are now being taught. I couldn’t just let this one pass.”
One soldier, an evangelical Christian who spoke on condition of anonymity, was so troubled by the group’s inclusion that he later sent Starnes a picture of the slide. Under the headline announcing the AFA’s placement on this list, it included an image of Fred Phelps, the virulent Westboro Baptist Church preacher, holding a sign that read, “No special law for f***.”
If accurate, this description is photo’s inclusion is particularly odd, seeing as the AFA and Westboro have no official connections to one another. In fact, Bryan Fischer, who directs issue analysis at the AFA, has spoken out against the anti-gay protest group in the past.
“I had to show Americans what our soldiers are now being taught,” the soldier told Starnes. “I couldn’t just let this one pass.”
But he also had another reason for reporting the incident to Starnes. The soldier claims attendees were told they could be punished for supporting hate groups and, as a donor to the AFA, he has fear of reprisal.
“I donate to AFA as often as I can. Am I going to be punished?,” he told Starnes. “I listen to American Family Radio all day. If they hear it on my radio, will I be faced with a Uniformed Code of Military Justice charge?”
The soldier apparently wasn’t the only person uncomfortable with the presentation. When a chaplain chimed in to challenge the assertion, the instructor said that the AFA’s claims about gays and lesbians qualify the organization for the hate group label.
Fischer, who has frequently been targeted for perceived anti-gay sentiment, told Starnes that the allegations against the AFA are untrue, claiming that his organization does not discriminate; it merely disagrees with those who want to legalize gay marriage.
This isn’t the first time that the AFA has been deemed a hate group. In April, Starnes claimed that a U.S. Army officer sent an e-mail to subordinates, listing the AFA and the Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups.”
The message, apparently sent by Lt. Col. Jack Rich at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, also instructed those who received the e-mail to be on the look-out for fellow soldiers who might be supporters of the organizations (or who, at the least, aren’t upholding “Army Values”).
The purpose of the most recent briefing is unclear, but the alleged content is certainly raising eyebrows.
The AFA’s status likely comes from its inclusion on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) list of hate groups — a label that many, like Starnes, decry.
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(H/T: Todd Starnes)