FFRF asks West Point to rethink prayer breakfast

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a Jan. 31 letter to the U.S. Military Academy calling for it to do some "soul searching" over West Point's annual so-called "National Prayer Breakfast," after a controversy about Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin's invitation to speak.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with over 17,500 members nationwide, including 24 percent who are active duty military and veterans.

Boykin has been a polarizing figure, known for giving pro-Christian, anti-Muslim speeches in churches ("my God was bigger than his"). FFRF said Boykin's reckless statements have consequences for National Security and he should never have been invited.

Although Boykin withdrew yesterday from the Feb. 8 event, FFRF pointed out that this debacle is part of a larger problem: military endorsement of religion.

"We request that you cancel these 'National Prayer Breakfasts' and issue a statement repudiating Boykin’s comments. Boykin’s divisiveness has shone a light on this annual National Prayer Breakfast, which goes beyond the proper role of the Office of Chaplains. The message is received loud and clear by cadets: the Academy prefers and endorses one religion. We need military leaders who are willing to protect the rights of conscience of all," charged FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF wrote: "Boykin was invited to speak by the academy despite his record of fundamentalist and bigoted statements made during speaking engagements. Boykin consistently attacks Islam, criticizes a secular view of government, and couches such statements with references to a religious war. The Academy’s invite was appalling. We are glad to learn that he will no longer be speaking."

FFRF's letter noted that Boykin's decision to withdraw "does not go far enough." His appearance at the breakfast would draw a clear link between the fundamentalist Christian message and the U.S. military, something that George W. Bush would not and did not condone.

"It is appalling, given this history of incendiary and unprofessional comments, that the U.S. Military Academy would honor Boykin by inviting him to provide an address at a West Point event. His views are off-the-wall, conspiratorial, and advance a tired 'persecuted' Christian theme that seeks to pit Christians of his persuasion against everyone else," wrote FFRF. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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