Jerry Boykin

Boykin Cuts and Runs from West Point Event after PFAW Exposes his Extremism

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a former Army officer who now spends his time spreading Islamophobic propaganda and anti-government conspiracy theories, canceled his plans to speak at West Point last night after a veterans’ group expressed concern about his views. People For has been following Boykin’s career since his retirement from the military, and has caught him on tape expressing some of his most outrageous views, including that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment,” that there should be “no mosques in America,” and that President Obama is using his health care reform legislation to create a Hitler-style brownshirt army.

Boykin got into hot water about his scheduled West Point appearance shortly after provoking controversy in Maryland over his appearance at the Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. People For brought Boykin’s history of bigotry to the attention of Ocean City officials and called on them to disinvite Boykin. They didn’t, but the media attention on Boykin's appearance made for an uncomfortable situation for its organizers, and shed light on Boykin’s undeniable extremism.

Using People For’s research and building off the Ocean City controversy, last week the veterans’ group VoteVets called on West Point to revoke its invitation to Boykin, saying “his views are inconsistent with the values of the Army as an institution.VoteVets’ request was quickly joined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and dozens of West Point cadets, faculty and alumni.

The New York Times interviewed some of those who were concerned about Boykin’s speech, including a cadet concerned about the message the invitation would send to Muslim cadets, and People For senior fellow Peter Montgomery, who attended the Boykin event in Ocean City:

A fourth-year cadet at West Point, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals for breaking military discipline, said in a telephone interview before the cancellation was announced that “people are definitely talking about it here.”

“They’re inviting someone who’s openly criticizing a religion that is practiced on campus,” he said. “I know Muslim cadets here, and they are great, outstanding citizens, and this ex-general is saying they shouldn’t enjoy the same rights.”
The cadet asked, “Are we supposed to take leadership qualities and experience from this guy, to follow in his footsteps?”

A similar controversy erupted last week, in the days before General Boykin spoke at the mayor’s annual prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Md. The general made no inflammatory statements about Islam, instead describing how prayer had helped him through dangerous military operations.

But Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, said the West Point invitation was a mistake. West Point, Mr. Montgomery said, would have given “a platform to someone who is publicly identified with offensive comments about Muslims and about the commander in chief.”



Baltimore Sun Calls Out Ocean City Officials for Bolstering Jerry Boykin's Bigotry

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

The Baltimore Sun is insisting that the mayor and city councilmen of Ocean City, Maryland end their silence about Jerry Boykin, the keynote speaker at tomorrow’s Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, whose radical anti-Muslim views have led to an outpouring of protests. As we’ve documented on Right Wing Watch, Boykin has a long history of bigoted and preposterous rhetoric, including accusing President Obama of trying to create a personal “Brownshirt” army, calling on mosques to be banned in the US and demanding that Muslims lose their First Amendment rights. However, the mayor’s office denied that Boykin has said anything controversial “in recent appearances.”

The Sun’s editorial demands the mayor state publicly what he thinks about Boykin’s “repugnant” claims and “paranoid worldview” by “stating that religious bigotry has no place in a family resort town whose economy depends on making people of all races, religions and creeds feel welcome.” “They need to make clear whether they agree with Mr. Boykin’s views,” the Sun writes, “they need to do it immediately and they need to do it publicly”:

For 20 years, the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in Ocean City has been a generally quiet affair. But this year the event's sponsors invited as guest speaker a former high-ranking Pentagon official notorious for his characterization of Muslims as godless idol-worshipers and terrorist fanatics. Ocean City's mayor and council members received hundreds of emails urging them to shun the event, scheduled for this morning, rather than appear to endorse such views. But they need to go further, by clearly stating that religious bigotry has no place in a family resort town whose economy depends on making people of all races, religions and creeds feel welcome.

Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who retired in 2007 to become a speaker on the evangelical Christian lecture circuit, is certainly no stranger to controversy. In 2003 he was reprimanded by President George W. Bush for violating numerous Army regulations after he described a 1993 battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia by saying, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." As president, Mr. Bush had taken great pains to emphasize that the U.S. was at war not with Islam, but with terrorists who had perverted its tenets. General Boykin's comment played right into the hands of enemy propagandists eager to paint America's war against terror as a war against Muslims.

General Boykin extremist views also got him into trouble when the Army discovered he was giving unauthorized speeches at evangelical church functions while serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting. Yet that didn't stop him from later suggesting that Muslims didn't deserve protection under the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause because "those following the dictates of the Koran have an obligation to destroy our constitution and replace it with Sharia law." He once even accused President Obama of setting up a "Hitler-style" militia to force socialism on America, whatever that means.

It should have been obvious to the organizers of the prayer breakfast that Mr. Boykin's appearance in Ocean City would be source of contention. Though the event has no official connection to the town and the mayor's presence there is purely ceremonial, it cannot have escaped the event's sponsors that the mere fact they had invited such a controversial figure would reflect poorly on the town. That's not only because Mr. Boykin's views are repugnant but because his high-profile presence among Ocean City's officials virtually guaranteed they would be called on to repudiate his ideas, lest they give the impression they agree with his paranoid world-view.

Make no mistake: This is not an issue of freedom of speech or of any of the constitution's protections for religious expression that Mr. Boykin seems so eager to deny to those who don't share his own Christian faith. Mr. Boykin has every right to say whatever outrageously offensive and hateful things about Muslims pop into his head, and the private organizers of an Ocean City prayer breakfast have the right to invite him to speak. Likewise, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the town council can attend the breakfast if they so choose. What they cannot do, however, is pretend that their presence there won't reflect badly on them and the resort town they lead. They need to make clear whether they agree with Mr. Boykin's views, they need to do it immediately and they need to do it publicly.

Pressure Increases on Ocean City Officials to Drop Boykin

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

With Jerry Boykin set to keynote the Mayor’s Prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Maryland on Thursday, pressure is increasing on city officials to drop the controversial speaker. Boykin routinely spouts extremist views, including calling for the U.S. to ban mosques and strip Muslims of their First Amendment rights. People For the American Way sent a letter to members of the city council and mayor Rick Meehan asking them to rescind Boykin’s invitation, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Auburn Theological Seminary, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and Faith in Public Life have also raised questions about Boykin’s appearance.

The mayor has so far stood by Boykin, absurdly claiming that “Boykin has not said anything controversial in his recent public appearances.” Boykin, however, recently maintained that the Council of Foreign Relations and George Soros are creating a global Marxist government. He has also claimed that President Obama is using the health care reform law to build a Marxist dictatorship with a personal “Brownshirt” army. Boykin himself bragged, “I am intolerant,” and demanded Christians “go on the offensive” against Islam.

ABC Baltimore covered the controversy surrounding Boykin last night, including Boykin’s record of religious bigotry:

The Baltimore Sun also looked into Boykin’s appearance, noting that he was reprimanded during the Bush administration for making speeches in uniform in which he claimed that the U.S. military is involved in a religious war against Islam:

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said his group wants the mayor to refuse to attend to the event, or to force the organizer to revoke Boykin's invitation. More than 700 people have emailed Meehan and town officials since Monday through a tool on its website to protest the gathering, according to the group, which says its mission is to advocate for equality, free speech and freedom of religion.

"Ocean City works hard to maintain its reputation as a family-friendly destination open to all-comers," Keegan said in a statement. "An official endorsement of Jerry Boykin would send the wrong message about what the city stands for."

Boykin did not respond to requests for an interview. He travels the country for speaking engagements and was near Charleston, S.C., earlier this month to introduce GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown.

Boykin was rebuked by President George W. Bush in 2003 after Boykin publicly described a U.S. Army battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia in 1993, saying: "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." He also gave unauthorized speeches at evangelical church functions while serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and war-fighting. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations has said Boykin has a "long, shameful history of extreme and bigoted views."

Meehan did not respond to a request for an interview. Spokeswoman Abbott said the mayor was tied up in budget meetings Tuesday.

Meehan is hopeful that Boykin's remarks will be respectful, Abbott said.

"We have been assured that remarks made will not be divisive or inflammatory remarks," she said. "He wants to allow the speaker to have his say, and we have been given no indication that the topic will be anything but inspirational."

The breakfast's organizer, Bruce Spangler, did not return a call for comment. Spangler, however, told The Dispatch newspaper in Ocean City earlier this month that he was excited about Boykin's appearance, calling Boykin an expert on Islamic history and saying his "testimony" would be too exciting to miss.

"This country was founded on biblical values, and we are getting away from that," Spangler told The Dispatch.

CAIR and Auburn Theological Seminary Join Call for Ocean City to Disinvite Boykin

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch.

On Thursday, People For the American Way sent a letter to the mayor and city council of Ocean City, Maryland, urging them to rescind their invitation to retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin to headline this week’s Mayor’s Prayer breakfast. Boykin, whom PFAW president Michael Keegan called “one of the most bigoted and offensive figures on the national stage,” makes his living by spreading Islamophobia and conspiracy theories. He has, among other things, said that Islam is not protected under the First Amendment, that there should be no more mosques in America and that President Obama used health care reform to create a “brownshirt” army loyal just to him.

Now, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City are joining the call for Ocean City to rethink its Prayer Breakfast speaker.

In a letter to Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan, CAIR wrote:

We question the appropriateness of this choice for an official event, given Boykin's long, shameful history of extreme and bigoted views. . . It will be a discredit to your office and a disservice to the citizens of Ocean City if such a man is allowed to spread his divisive falsehoods and prejudiced ideas at a government-sponsored function.

We respectfully ask whether any taxpayer funds are being spent on this year's Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, and how your office plans to address the appearance of an official endorsement of Boykin's extremist views. We ask that you reconsider inviting him, given that the biased ideas he espouses -- though protected by the First Amendment -- should be repudiated, not given a legitimizing platform.

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Theological Seminary, issued a public statement on Boykin’s invitiation:

It is outrageous that Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin is scheduled to be the featured speaker at this week’s Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. Anyone who has conducted a Google search on Boykin would know that he frequently employs hateful rhetoric and endorses wild conspiracy theories about American Muslims.

Our nation is stronger when we place these sorts of attacks on American Muslims out of bounds. A prayer breakfast should be a time for celebrating our shared religious and faith commitments to the dignity of all people, not an opportunity to spout hateful rhetoric about millions of American citizens. The right thing to do in this situation is for Ocean's City's Mayor to respectfully and forcefully tell Boykin that he will not be delivering remarks at the upcoming breakfast because of his history of hateful attacks on American Muslims and Muslims generally.

Meanwhile,, a local paper, is reporting that the breakfast is scheduled to go ahead, but that the mayor and city council are beginning to feel the heat and distance themselves from Boykin:

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she had first heard of Boykin's views in early December, and that she had been assured he would speak appropriately at the breakfast. In the past couple days, she has received more than 300 emails from people about the event, most of which are forwarded versions of the emails circulated about it by the two protesting organizations. Councilman Brent Ashley’s inbox had more than 170 messages.

Knight said Tuesday she is not sure whether she attend — she hadn’t bought a ticket yet. Ashley said he has a prior engagement, and will not attend the breakfast.

Since the story was published, over 700 Maryland members of People For the American Way have written to the mayor and city council urging them to reject Boykin’s message of hate.