An armed forces prayer breakfast at which a controversial retired U.S. Army general was to speak was cancelled this week thanks in part to his long history of Christian proselytizing and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin spent 36 years in the armed forces, including a stint with army special operations units, before retiring in 2007. He went on to become a vice president at the Family Research Council (FRC), which the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a hate group because of its anti-LGBT activism.
Given Boykin’s current place of employment, it’s no wonder that his words have gotten him in trouble. Repeatedly.
In 2003, Boykin tried to bring a Baptist pastors’ evangelism group to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina for special training and overnight accommodations. That effort was foiled after a complaint from Americans United.
Also in 2003, during one appearance in Oregon, Boykin opined that Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundations and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”
In another speech that year, Boykin regaled a crowd with a tale of how he captured an Islamic warlord in Somalia because “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
In 2004, Boykin finally received minor discipline for repeatedly characterizing the War on Terror as a Christian battle of good vs. evil. He also appeared frequently in uniform at far-right evangelical meetings, which is against regulations. Americans United had asked that the general, who was then deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, be fired.
But Boykin’s missteps aren’t limited to religion. A 2008 book he authored titled: Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, contained classified information. In 2013, military officials reprimanded Boykin – but perhaps because he was already retired, criminal action was never pursued.
And there’s more. Boykin once oversaw a government program that paid evangelical Christian missionaries to spy on North Korea.
Boykin now speaks regularly at FRC’s Values Voter Summit, where he makes comments like this: “[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad is an evil despot, but the reality is he’s never been a threat to Christians.” As a result, Boykin said in 2014, the United States should consider arming Syria to fight Islamic jihadists – even though al-Assad allegedly used poison gas on his own people.
Given Boykin’s well-known history, it’s surprising that any government officials would want to associate with him. Yet, he was scheduled to speak at Fort Riley in Kansas next week as part of the 1st Infantry Division’s “Victory Week” celebration. But thanks to a complaint from Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), Boykin’s event was rescheduled and he will not be asked to speak at a later date. Officially, the change was due to “scheduling.”
“[D]ue to a number of scheduling conflicts...the breakfast will be rescheduled for a later date,” 1st ID spokesman Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne told the Army Times in an email.
This isn’t even the first time Boykin has pulled out from an army speaking engagement. In 2012, he was to address the U.S. Military Academy at West Point until he changed his mind following complaints from MRFF and others.
At this point, there is more than enough evidence to show why absolutely no one in the U.S. Armed Forces should ever invite Boykin to speak. He is fiercely anti-Muslim, works for an anti-gay organization and he promotes his narrow view of Christianity whenever he can. And when he is invited to speak to soldiers at official events, it sends the message that commanding officers agree with his positions.
Boykin's views are extreme. One of the best things he ever did was leave the U.S. Army and now that he is gone, the army should stay far away from him.