Sunday, April 22, 2012

Right Wing Watch Exposes The Mythical Martyrdom Of Jerry Boykin


If you want to keep an eye on what the most dangerous far right elements in public life-- the David Bartons, Pat Robertsons, Matt Barbers, Cindy Jacobs, Glenn Becks, Bryan Fischers, Ted Nugents, the Phyllis Schlaflys-- are up to when they think no one is looking... well People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch is looking. Always watching... always reporting... always focusing attention on the worst of the neo-fascist crackpots undermining democracy, freedom and equality. Example-- their just-released, powerful and compelling report, The Mythical Martyrdom of Jerry Boykin.

The report goes beyond just being a biography of Evil incarnate-- although it certainly is that-- to a case study on how the religionist right and the Conservative Movement use the propaganda techniques pioneered by fascists long dead to brainwash the poor saps Chris Mooney has been writing about so eloquently in his books, The Republican War on Science and The Republican Brain.
Retired General William “Jerry” Boykin had a long military career, much of it spent in charge of special forces units.  So why would his selection as a speaker at West Point be controversial?  Almost ten years ago, when Boykin was still on active duty, he generated criticism for public comments, given while he was in uniform, indicating that he saw U.S. military engagement in religious terms, as “our God” (Christian) vs. Satan or the “idol” God he said was worshipped by Muslims. It was widely feared that such comments could endanger U.S. troops.  Boykin was criticized publicly by then-President George W. Bush and in a 2004 report by the Pentagon’s inspector general; critics worried that his remarks could put servicemembers’ lives in jeopardy by suggesting that the American military saw regional conflicts in religious terms. Since he retired, Boykin became an ordained minister and has been a regular speaker at Religious Right and right-wing events, where he has not only demonized Muslims, but also claimed that since Islam is not a religion but a “totalitarian way of life,” and since Muslims are under an “obligation to destroy our Constitution,” American Muslims are not protected under the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty.  More explicitly, he said there should be no mosques allowed in America. Boykin works through his organization Kingdom Warriors.  He also serves on the board of the dominionist Oak Initiative. Boykin is a co-author of Sharia, the Threat to America, popularly known as the Team B II report. He has charged that President Obama is creating a Hitler-like cadre of Brownshirts to force Marxism down Americans’ throats.

...VoteVets argued that Boykin’s views were incompatible with Army values, inconsistent with Army doctrine, and disrespectful of the service of Muslim-Americans serving in the Armed Forces. VoteVets leaders Jon Soltz and Richard Allen Smith said the kind of anti-Muslim remarks Gen. Boykin has made “threaten our relationships with Muslims around the world, and thereby, our troops serving in harm’s way."

Members of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy also opposed Boykin’s invitation.  “Chaplains are sworn to serve all in the military,” said retired Chaplain (Colonel) Paul Dodd, co-chair of the Forum.  “It sends a poisonous message to have chaplains sponsor someone so strongly associated with speech that condemns one particular religious group.”

Although West Point officials initially defended the plan to have Boykin speak at the “pluralistic” breakfast, saying cadets were “purposefully exposed to different perspectives and cultures,” the retired general withdrew a few days before the breakfast, reportedly after speaking with West Point officials.

Right-wing leaders and pundits lost no time in trying to turn a defeat into victory by portraying Boykin as a martyr for free speech and religious liberty. This is one of the Religious Right’s go-to strategies: to dishonestly portray policy disagreements-- or in this case, an effort to hold officials accountable for promoting irresponsible behavior-- as attacks on religious liberty.  Said the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, “He has done so much to defend the ideals and the freedom that America stands for. Yet his own freedoms-- that he fought to protect for others-- have been taken from him.”

Boykin supporters immediately began portraying opposition to his appearance as an attack on Boykin’s Christian faith and his freedom of speech. Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council declared that Boykin was kept from speaking at West Point “because of his Christian beliefs.” Frank Gaffney, himself a font of anti-Muslim bigotry, railed in the Washington Times against “the suppression of Gen. Boykin’s right to express himself-- and, for that matter, to enjoy freedom of religion.” The Family Research Council sent an action alert to members blaming Boykin’s withdrawal on “the Obama Administration’s continuing track-record of hostility toward Christianity.” FRC’s Tony Perkins urged activists to “Sign our petition urging Congress and the Obama administration to take action to end the purging of Christianity from the military.”

...Since the primary goal of the Religious Right political movement today is the defeat of President Obama, and Religious Right leaders routinely and falsely characterize the administration as anti-religious and anti-Christian, it is not surprising that Religious Right officials have tried to blame the controversy on the president.  Tony Perkins said, “There seems to be pressure coming from within the administration to sweep Christianity off the face of military bases.” Ken Blackwell echoed the charge: “This sad episode is yet another example of the Obama administration’s ongoing hostility to people of faith, especially Christians.” The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote, “The Obama Administration is advancing an environment of religious disarmament among the military-- and it must be stopped quickly for the sake of our solders’ spiritual lives.”  Boykin himself has joined in, saying that the administration has “shown favor to Islam at the same time that they have denigrated both Christianity and Judaism.” Perkins said that even if the order did not come from Obama’s desk, “The President has created an environment that has become hostile to Christianity in this country.”

There has been no indication that administration officials were involved in conversation about the prayer breakfast. Indeed, West Point officials initially defended the invitation to Boykin; he himself said he withdrew after a conversation with West Point’s chaplain about the pressure that had been put on the school’s leadership.

...No one has challenged retired Gen. Boykin’s freedom of religion or freedom of speech. He is like all Americans free to speak, preach, and proselytize. He is free to continue to travel around the country promoting religious bigotry and calling for legalized discrimination against some Americans based on their religious beliefs. He is free to make his case in the media, as he has continued to do since withdrawing from the West Point prayer breakfast. And he is even free to claim that criticizing his outrageous statements is the equivalent of an attack on his personal freedom.

But General Boykin has no “right” to be free from criticism.  And he has no “right” to have his irresponsible positions promoted by public officials.  Indeed, Americans who value free speech and religious liberty have good reasons to challenge Boykin’s assertions, and to hold accountable public officials who give his extremism credibility it does not deserve.

I'm a member of People For The American Way and support the work of Right Wing Watch. If you'd like to, you can join here. Right-Wing Watch catches these freaks on video too... like Boykin explaining why he endorsed Rick Santorum:

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At 10:23 AM, Blogger Cirze said...

Love it!

Keep on exposing them.

But wait. That Christian-hating Kenyan is now bombing all those Islamists to distract those who know he's secretly a supporter.




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