William Boykin’s ardent Christian beliefs finally caught up with him.
Forty years ago, they nearly got him disqualified from joining the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force. Nine years ago, when he had attained his present rank of lieutenant general, they nearly got him fired from his job in the Bush administration.
And, recently, the evangelical Christian, now a college instructor and ordained minister, was forced to withdraw from giving a talk on spirituality to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
In demanding West Point replace him as speaker at the annual Prayer Breakfast, his critics claimed he had in the past argued that the Constitution’s First Amendment protection for religion should not apply to Muslims and cast the U.S. war on terrorism as a holy war between Christianity and Islam.
Shortly before Boykin’s scheduled Dec. 8 talk, West Point announced the general had withdrawn.
Did he jump, or was he pushed?
“Let’s say it was by mutual agreement. I love the Army, and I love the people at West Point,” said Boykin, who did not attend the academy. “I would certainly have been pleased if West Point had taken a position against a group that has been connected to terrorist financing.”
VoteVets.org, a political action committee described by The New York Times as a “liberal veteran’s group” and one with several retired generals on its advisory board (including Wesley Clark, who ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination), led the charge against Boykin, claiming that to allow him to speak to cadets “would be a slap to the face to Muslim Americans who have served their country, not to mention those who gave the fullest sacrifice for their nation and their comrades.”
Another group opposed to Boykin’s talk was the Forum for the Military Chaplaincy, also described by The Times as “liberal.”
Sharia vs. the Constitution
Boykin said that he had not called for all Muslims to be denied the protection of the First Amendment, but “only those Muslims who want to replace the American Constitution, freedom of religion, freedom of speech with sharia (Islamic law). Muslims who are happy to live in peace under the American Constitution should be protected.”
However, another group that protested Boykin’s invitation, the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), provided a YouTube link to a clip showing Boykin making the kind of blanket recommendation cited by his critics: “We must recognize that Islam is not just a religion. It is a totalitarian way of life. It’s a legal system, sharia law; it’s a financial system; it’s a moral code; it’s a political system. It should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are obligated to destroy the Constitution and replace it with sharia law.”
CAIR’s national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said that while “it is good he is not addressing one of our nation’s premier military academies,” CAIR would have preferred it if West Point or the U.S. military had withdrawn the invitation, thereby making a clear rejection of Boykin’s anti-Islamic comments.
“How he got invited in the first place is a big question. Comments like his about Islam would not have been acceptable at West Point if they had been made about any other religion,” Hooper said.
Boykin got support from Arthur Schulcz, spokesman for the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, which qualifies evangelicals seeking chaplaincies in the U.S. armed forces.
“It is a sad day when the young people being trained to defend our Constitution get to see West Point not stand up for freedom of speech and religious liberty because these things are in conflict with political correctness, and I say that as a West Point graduate,” said Schulcz. He added that, for military chaplains, too, there was increasing pressure to tow the administration’s line.
In early February, for example, Catholic chaplains were prohibited by the Army from reading from the pulpit a pastoral letter condemning the federal health-insurance plan for funding contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. They were allowed to mention it in announcements, however, and distribute it in printed form.
Also defending Boykin was Robert Spencer, a Catholic layman who operates JihadWatch.org, a blogsite that monitors Islamic persecutions of other religions worldwide. “What happened at West Point is outrageous,” said Spencer. “There should not be a problem with a man who takes a stand against organizations that deny the validity of the U.S. Constitution.”
Spencer, like Boykin, says CAIR is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, both of which are intent, they claim, on destroying America “from within.”
CAIR’s Hooper denies the charge: “We have no connection with any other organization. Claims that we do are just typical Islamophobia.”
Boykin and Spencer both note that CAIR was an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 2008 Hamas funding investigation, which saw the Holy Land Foundation shut down and its leaders jailed for funneling donations to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization.
Boykin is a much-decorated former officer in Delta Force (U.S. Army’s elite squad). An Army psychologist reportedly wanted to reject him because he was too religious. Boykin said he had been raised in a Christian home but had lost his faith by the time he was commissioned in the Army, then he grew sick of the immoral life he was leading and returned to his Christian roots.
As a member of Delta Force, he participated in such actions as Grenada, the attempt to rescue U.S. embassy hostages in Iran, Somalia and, according to The New York Times, may also have been involved in assassination missions against Latin American drug lords.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack, while serving as deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, he made public comments suggesting Christianity and Islam were in a holy war. He has denied this interpretation.
Now Boykin teaches leadership at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, heads a three- person humanitarian mission (himself, his wife and a secretary) called “Christian Warriors,” and makes frequent public appearances warning of the threat posed by extremist Muslims.
Boykin says there would have been nothing in his talk at West Point about Islam. “I would have talked about the importance of my faith in my 35-plus years in the Army.”
Boykin said that he had known many effective leaders in the Army “with no faith at all.” But he had found great value in prayer — “for wisdom, for guidance, for protection. When I prayed for it, I received it.”
Register correspondent Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.