Retired Gen. Jerry Boykin was the featured speaker at this morning’s “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast” in Ocean City, in spite of calls for city officials not to give a platform to the promoter of religious bigotry and discrimination. RWW has documented that Boykin has spent much of his retirement calling for American Muslims to be denied the protection of the First Amendment and denied the right to build mosques for worship. Boykin has also insisted that President Obama is building a Hitlerian army of brownshirts to force Marxism down Americans’ throats.
Over the past week more than 1600 individuals contacted city officials to ask that they distance themselves from Boykin’s religious bigotry and extremism. and other civil rights and social justice organizations joined PFAW’s Michael Keegan in criticizing Ocean City officials for associating the city’s good name with Boykin. The Baltimore Sun weighed in with a powerful editorial, which said in part:
Make no mistake: This is not an issue of freedom of speech or of any of the constitution’s protections for religious expression that Mr. Boykin seems so eager to deny to those who don’t share his own Christian faith. Mr. Boykin has every right to say whatever outrageously offensive and hateful things about Muslims pop into his head, and the private organizers of an Ocean City prayer breakfast have the right to invite him to speak. Likewise, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the town council can attend the breakfast if they so choose. What they cannot do, however, is pretend that their presence there won’t reflect badly on them and the resort town they lead.
But the breakfast went forward as planned. Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan said in his welcoming remarks that the prayer breakfast is a longstanding tradition that brings together “clergy, citizens and visitors of all faiths” to share fellowship. “We welcome everybody. We might not all agree on all things but we encourage and respect everbody’s beliefs and I think that goes without saying, that’s what Ocean City is all about.” Meehan welcomed the one Ocean City councilmember in attendance, Doug Cymek. as well as County Commissioner Bud Church and an array of local law enforcement officials and educators.
I’m not sure how many non-Christians would have felt welcomed at the event, which included a reading of scripture declaring that anyone who does not accept Jesus is condemned for loving darkness rather than light, and which concluded with Boykin asking those in attendance to join him in a prayer of repentance and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as the son of God.
In his remarks, Boykin avoided overtly embarrassing his hosts by steering clear of the anti-Muslim bigotry that is at the center of his right-wing activism. His 45-minute address, largely drawn from his autobiography, was a collection of stories from his long career in the special forces, and moments in which he said God’s intervention had saved him or his men. But Boykin’s decision to focus on his personal testimony does not excuse city officials for choosing to honor him with this platform even though they were aware of his extremist record.