U.S. Army officials recently told active duty and reserve troops that the Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) should be classified as a domestic hate group because it advocates for traditional family values, Fox News reported Monday.
“This categorization is incorrect and unfounded,” Tim Wildmon, president of AFA, said in a statement. “We do not hate any person or group of people; we love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth about the consequences of homosexual behavior.
“Based on its own website, Army values are loyalty, duty, honor, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage,” he added. “As evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, these are values that we not only share, but strive to uphold in every action that we take in daily life. Our loyalty and duty is to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
The briefing at Camp Shelby in Mississippi listed the AFA alongside the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and the Blank Panthers. Fox News’ Todd Starnes reported that a soldier who was at the briefing sent him a photograph of a presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group. An image of Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps holding a sign that said “No Special Law for F--s” appeared under the AFA headline.
American Family Association is in no way affiliated with Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for picketing the funerals of American military members.
“I had to show Americans what our soldiers are now being taught,” said the soldier who asked not to be identified. “I couldn’t just let this one pass.”
Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at AFA, says the soldier also sent the photo to the organization.
“The sad reality is that Fred Phelps and his group actually do hate homosexuals. That's not what the American Family Association believes.”
Fischer wrote in a blog post, “The truth is that the AFA doesn’t hate anyone. We love everybody. We love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth about the moral, spiritual and physical dangers of homosexual conduct.”
According to the soldier, a chaplain interrupted the presentation and challenged the notion that AFA is a hate group.
“The instructor said AFA could be considered a hate group because they don’t like gays,” the soldier told Starnes. “The slide was talking about how AFA refers to gays as sinners and heathens and derogatory terms.”
The AFA blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for spreading misinformation to the U.S. Army, and Fischer says this is not the first time the Army has labeled conservative Christian organizations as hate groups.
“We need the military to stop using the SPLC. They are not a credible source of information about hate or discrimination,” Fischer pleads. “The Weekly Standard exposed them last spring as nothing more than a fear-mongering, fundraising scam. They’ve gotten flunking grades from the leading charity organization watchdog group in the United States because of their unethical use of donor funds.
“This accusation on the part of the military is libelous, it's slanderous, and it's blatantly false,” he argues. “So we at the AFA are calling on the military to strip all of their training materials of any reference to the American Family Association as a hate group. And if they will not do that, then I think there is a possibility of some kind of legal action.”
AFA is already working with Texas-based Liberty Institute on the matter, according to OneNewsNow.
“We're going to investigate this, and we're going to make some requests to the military to get to the bottom of this to find out who authorized this, who came up with it, and where it’s occurring,” says Liberty Institute attorney Jeff Mateer. “Of course, we know that it's occurring at a couple of bases. It may be more, and we really want to get to the bottom of it.”