AU Urges Defense Dept. To Send Religious Right General Boykin Packing

An Army general who gave speeches at religious events describing the U.S. war on terrorism as a Christian battle against Satan is likely to escape with a slap on the wrist but he should be removed from duty, says Americans United.

In August, TheWashington Post reported that the Defense Department had recommended that Acting Secretary of the Army find Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin guilty of minor internal regulations, such as failing to get clearance for his frequent comments before churches and making sure his audiences understood that he was speaking in a personal capacity. The report has not been made public, but was obtained by the newspaper.

The Post’s article quoted a “senior Defense official” as calling the report a “complete exoneration” of Boykin and said it is likely the general will only be held responsible for “relatively minor offenses.”

In October 2003, Americans United urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to fire Boykin. Only months earlier in April, AU had sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army protesting Boykin’s endorsement of a Southern Baptist evangelism program and his use of an army base and its personnel to host and promote the ministry.

Boykin’s frequent speeches before churches and prayer breakfasts nationwide drew worldwide attention when they were brought to light in fall 2003. Boykin spoke about his involvement in the war on terrorism at 23 religious events since early 2002. According to the Post, he wore his uniform at all but two of those appearances.

In a speech in Daytona, Fla., Boykin recalled his efforts to capture an Islamic militant in Somalia who boasted that Allah would protect him from Ameri­cans. Boykin said, “Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”

During a speech before a congregation in Oregon, he declared that he was leading a “spiritual battle” against Satan. He told the congregation that Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”

Boykin was roundly criticized by political leaders worldwide and his comments only added to perceptions held by many in the Middle East of an American-led war against Islam. His comments were widely reported by the media in the Arab world, leading U.S. officials to release a general letter stating that Boykin’s views were personal and were not intended to represent the American government.

Several Religious Right groups and their congressional allies came out in support of Boykin. And although President George W. Bush sought to distance his administration from Boykin’s remarks, Rumsfeld praised the general’s “outstanding record” and refused to suspend him from office during the Defense Department’s investigation. Boykin now holds a high-ranking military intelligence slot.

AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said that the administration should remove Boykin from office.

“The general should not be in a top policy-making position,” said Lynn. “This initial report from the Defense Department is troubling because it suggests Boykin will not be held fully accountable for his inflammatory actions.”

Last month, 11 members of Congress wrote to Bush, urging him to remove Boykin.

“While General Boykin is obviously entitled as a citizen to whatever religious views he wishes to hold, we believe that his remarks demonstrate a serious lack of the objectivity that should be accompanying military intelligence,” read the Sept. 2 letter.