The National Rifle Association is planning to host retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who has a long record of hateful comments about Muslims and Islam, as keynote speaker of the prayer breakfast at their annual meeting later this month.
In January Boykin withdrew from a similar event at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the face of criticism of his divisive rhetoric from cadets, faculty, Muslim organizations, and progressive veterans groups. As VoteVets put it, Boykin had repeatedly used "incendiary rhetoric regarding Islam and Muslims, even characterizing America's wars as Christianity versus Islam." The same month People for the American Way and the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on officials in Ocean City, MD to cancel their invitation for Boykin to speak at the Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.
NRA's website urges annual meeting attendees not to "miss this opportunity for encouragement, fellowship and sharing with your NRA family," and is charging $35 for tickets to see Boykin, "World Champion Elk Caller" Chad Shearer, and country music artist Bryan White at the April 15 event. The prayer breakfast comes on the final day of the four-day convention, which will be held in St. Louis, Missouri and feature speeches from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and a variety of Republican officeholders.
Boykin received international attention in 2003 after the Los Angeles Times and NBC News reported on speeches he had given in full military dress at religious events suggesting that the United States was fighting a "spiritual battle" in the Middle East against "a guy called Satan" who "wants to destroy us as a Christian army." Boykin also said of a Somali fighter who said that Allah would protect him from Americans, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."
(Boykin later apologized and claimed that he had meant that the man's God was "money and power.")
Boykin's remarks drew widespread criticism, including from President Bush, who said that Boykin "doesn't reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration." Later that year a Defense Department investigation found that Boykin's speeches had violated regulations and called for the taking of "appropriate corrective action." In 2010, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Boykin to testify on the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, then revoked that invitation following media reports of the pending testimony, with a spokesman stating that the 2003 comments "would be used to distract" from Kagan's record.
Since his 2007 retirement, Boykin has continued to use a variety of religious and media platforms to attack Muslims and Islam. For example:
- Boykin has said that while "every Muslim should be allowed to worship freely," "Islam itself is not just a religion -- it is a totalitarian way of life," which he said "should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with Sharia law."
- Boykin has claimed that "A mosque is an embassy for Islam and they recognize only a global caliphate, not the sanctity or sovereignty of the United States," and called for "no mosques in America." (He later dishonestly claimed that he had been talking solely about the Park51 Islamic cultural center.)
- In February, Boykin said:
We love the Muslim people but we have to be very careful to understand that Islam, in a pure sense, in an authoritative sense, Islam is evil. Islam is an evil concept, because it does call for innocent blood, it calls for the subjugation of women, it calls for a brutality that is alien to us as Christians. So we do love the Muslim people, but the Bible also speaks of a time when men will call good evil and evil good, and we have to be sure that we are in fact calling Islam what it is, and in reality it is evil.