Back in 2003, a general in the U.S. Army named William G. “Jerry” Boykin got himself in hot water because he had a habit of appearing, often in full uniform, before meetings of right-wing evangelicals and making intemperate comments about Islam.
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, 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.”
Not surprisingly, some people thought this wasn’t helpful, coming as it did during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the White House had to issue a “global message” to Muslim nations letting them know that Boykin wasn’t speaking for the American government during these appearances.
Americans United and other groups called on then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to fire Boykin, but in the end he received a slap on the wrist. An Army official described the penalty as “appropriate” but not “significant.”
The good news is that Boykin left the Army. The bad news is that he remains as extreme as ever – and he has a new job with the Family Research Council (FRC).
The FRC has announced that Boykin will join the Religious Right lobby as executive vice president. In a press release, the FRC said Boykin will “oversee day-to-day operations including policy, finance, development, communications, human resources, facilities, information technology, constituent communications and services.”
I’m sure Boykin will fit right in with the FRC gang. Boykin has spent the last few years making the round of Religious Right groups, where he makes speeches and pours on the crazy.
Like much of the FRC staff, Boykin seems to have a hard time understanding the First Amendment. In 2011, he wrote a column arguing that the First Amendment might not apply to Islam. Giving Islam too much freedom, he warned, might lead to “the establishment of Islamic law and government, or Sharia, alongside or in place of civil law and government in this country.”
Boykin has since gone even farther, insisting that no mosques be built in America and asserting that Islam is not a religion.
During a television appearance, Boykin asserted that President Barack Obama is planning a “Marxist insurgency” backed by a secret military force “that would control the population in America.” According to Boykin, the president’s health-care bill is part of this plot, and he likened it to activity by Nazi brownshirts.
Boykin has also asserted that school textbooks are designed to make children lose pride in America. He called supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement “useful idiots” fond of “using drugs and raping people.”
Yes, I think Boykin is a perfect match for the FRC. The only question is whether he plans to bring his own aluminum-foil hat or get one from the FRC supply closet.
The FRC, you might recall, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its constant attacks on gay people. With Boykin’s help, the organization might soon be able to win that designation for its Islamophobia.
The FRC and groups like it claim to be just plain folks – nice, normal Americans who just happen to be very religious and want to preserve their rights. The fact that they put an extremist like Boykin in a position of high authority shows how out there they really are.
And remember, these are the people who think they know what’s best for you.
P.S. In other news about the Religious Right, the Alliance Defense Fund, a far-right legal group founded by TV and radio preachers in the 1990s, has changed its name to the Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s a total rebranding with a new logo and everything!
Personally, I would have gone with something more honest like the “Alliance of Right-Wing Fundamentalists Determined to Use the Government to Shove Our Repressive Religion Down Your Throat,” but the ADF brass didn’t ask me.