A group of veterans is calling on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to retract its speaking invitation to a retired Army officer known for his controversial views about Islam.
Retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin was the Pentagon’s senior military intelligence official until 2004, when he was reprimanded for remarks comparing the war against radical Islam to a Christian struggle against Satan and for saying Muslims worship idols and not “a real God,” according to the Washington Post. He has also said he believes no mosques should be built in America and has called Islam “a totalitarian way of life.”
Boykin, an ordained minister who speaks around the country, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a West Point prayer breakfast Feb. 8.
On Thursday, VoteVets.org, the self-described “largest progressive organization of veterans in America,” released a letter to West Point’s superintendent asking for Boykin’s invitation to be rescinded.
“[Statements similar to Boykin's] remarks threaten our relationships with Muslims around the world, and thereby, our troops serving in harm’s way,” the letter stated.
Calling Boykin’s values “inconsistent even with current Army doctrine,” the organization said it would be “counterproductive for our future Army leaders to hear the views of Lt. Gen. Boykin.”
VoteVets.org has been joined by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, a “community support network” that “responds to insensitive practices that illegally promote religion over non-religion within the military or unethically discriminate against minority religions or differing beliefs,” according to their website.
“MAAF supports efforts of VoteVets against a West Point prayer breakfast appearance by Dominionist retired general Boykin,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations joined in the call as well Thursday, issuing its own statement imploring West Point to retract the invitation.
“Mr. Boykin’s intolerant views do a disservice to our nation’s longstanding traditions of religious freedom and pluralism and could potentially harm our country’s interests and the security of our troops overseas,” CAIR said in a release. “By providing a platform associated with West Point, Mr. Boykin’s hate-filled rhetoric would receive a level of credibility and legitimacy it does not deserve.”
Despite the protests, West Point is standing firm and will host Boykin as planned, a spokesman told the Post.
“The U.S. Military Academy at West Point prepares cadets to be leaders of character with honor and consideration of others. In order to produce effective 21st Century leaders for our Army, and our Nation, cadets are purposefully exposed to different perspectives and cultures over the course of their 47-month experience at West Point,” public affairs director Lt. Col Sherri Reed said in a statement. “We are comfortable and confident that what retired Lt. Gen. Boykin will share about prayer, soldier care and selfless service, will be in keeping with the broad range of ideas normally considered by our cadets.”
Similar objections about Boykin were raised earlier this week before he spoke at a mayor’s prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Md. Local television news station WBOC-TV reported Boykin’s speech went off without incident, and that he received a standing ovation for his remarks, which made no reference to Islam. CAIR and other groups had called for Boykin to be disinvited to that event as well.