A prayer breakfast at Fort Riley set for Monday as part of 1st Infantry Division's "Victory Week" celebration has been rescheduled, and the retired three-star general who'd been invited to speak — and whose invitation to a similar event at West Point in 2012 met with fierce opposition — won't be asked back.
Retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, a 36-year Army veteran and longtime member of the special operations community, was to address the morning gathering at the Kansas base, but "due to a number of scheduling conflicts ... the breakfast will be rescheduled for a later date," 1st ID spokesman Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne said in a Wednesday email.
The day before, Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein sent multiple emails to 1st ID commander Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby on behalf of his advocacy group, demanding the leader "immediately withdraw" Boykin's invitation. Weinstein's email included a report from another MRFF staffer on Boykin that brought up, among other issues:
- The general's statements while in uniform comparing the global war on terrorism to a holy war against Satan.
- Widely reported remarks, also during his time in service, that he had confidence in an engagement with enemy forces led by a Somali warlord because "I knew my God was bigger than his."
- Statements made after his retirement claiming Islam is "not just a religion, it's a totalitarian way of life" and should not receive protection under the First Amendment.
Boykin, now an executive vice president with the conservative Family Research Council, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Citing scheduling concerns, 1st Infantry Division has postponed a prayer breakfast at Fort Riley, Kansas, that was to feature a three-star general whose scheduled appearance at a similar event in 2012 at West Point caused controversy.
Photo Credit: Defense Department
All of the above issues were know before Boykin was invited to speak at a prayer breakfast at the U.S. Military Academy in 2012, an invitation that earned scorn from the MRFF, veterans groups such as VoteVets.org, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. While the academy never rescinded the invite, Boykin pulled out of the event about a week before it took place.
Since then, Boykin has remained active as a speaker, was part of Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz's national security advisory team, and was reprimanded in 2013 for disclosing classified information in his 2008 memoir, despite reportedly being cleared of wrongdoing by a similar Defense Department in 2010.
Lavigne, with 1st ID, could not immediately answer specific questions regarding the issuance and approval of Boykin's invitation, but said the retired officer's "credentials as a Soldier and leader speak for themselves and his 36 years of service to our nation are worthy of our respect and admiration."
However, citing Fort Riley's "diverse community," Lavigne said 1st ID "will pursue the invitation of a different speaker for the prayer breakfast once it is rescheduled."
That's not enough for Weinstein, who said his group fielded more than 131 complaints from military and civilian clients in the area after word of Boykin's invitation spread.
"I have clients of ours weeping on the phone about this," he said. "[Army officials] have not admitted any fault. They don't indicate that they are going to investigate how this travesty, this unconstitutional travesty, happened, or their willingness to punish [those involved] to make sure it doesn't happen again. And we want all those things."
Weinstein's group, which claims more than 41,500 clients, recently succeeded in efforts to remove Bibles from several "missing man table" displays, designed to honor prisoners of war and troops missing in action, that are located on military and Veterans Affairs Department property. Boykin, in a piece at the FRC Action website, called one VA official's decision to remove the Bible "disgraceful" and showed "a poor knowledge of the Constitution."
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.