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General who voiced his faith cleared on major accusations

WASHINGTON (BP)–Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who came under fire last year for comments he made about his faith to church groups, has been cleared of the most serious accusations against him, The Washington Times reported.

An investigation, the newspaper reported Aug. 19, found that Boykin, an evangelical Christian, did not misuse his Army uniform, violate travel regulations nor use improper speech.

The investigation did, however, find that Boykin — a top Pentagon intelligence officer — should have received clearance before delivering the speeches, should have told the groups that the comments were his own and should have filed a form showing that one group reimbursed him for travel, The Times reported.

Army acting Secretary Les Brownlee now will decide whether to punish Boykin.

Boykin’s comments to church groups were the focus of much media attention last fall, including several reports on “NBC Nightly News.”

Some of the comments that drew the most attention came when Boykin described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu just after the “Blackhawk Down” incident that left 18 American soldiers dead. Boykin noticed in the photographs what he called a strange dark mark over the city.

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy,” Boykin said to those gathered at an Oklahoma church in 2002, according to The Los Angeles Times. “It is the principalities of darkness. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy.”

When speaking at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., in January 2003, Boykin told about the Mogadishu warlord who laughed at America’s Delta Force commandos and said he would never be captured because Allah would protect him.

“Well, you know what?” Boykin said, according to The Times, “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

In June, Boykin showed a church group a series of slides while speaking.

“Is he [Osama bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam Hussein] the enemy?” Boykin said, according to MSNBC.com. “The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”

Last fall the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, R.-Va., and Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Mich., sent a letter to Rumsfeld calling for an inspector general to determine whether Boykin engaged in inappropriate behavior.

“Public statements by a senior military official of an inflammatory, offensive nature that would denigrate another religion and which could be construed as bigotry may easily be exploited by enemies of the United States and contribute to an erosion of support within the Arab world, and perhaps increased risk for members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Muslim nations,” the senators’ letter said, according to the Associated Press.

But pro-family leaders defended Boykin, saying he has a right to express his religious beliefs. Eighteen members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last October, asking him not to discipline the three-star general.

“As elected officials serving in the United States Congress, we recognize the vital importance our personal faiths play in helping us make decisions,” the letter read. “We ask that any actions taken in response to Lt. Gen. Boykin’s remarks not, in any way, intimidate the free religious exercise of his faith.”

Columnist Cal Thomas also defended Boykin, saying that Boykin’s views on the war on terrorism were correct.

“This notion that religion is not at the heart of the hatred directed at America from outside and now inside the country qualifies as extreme denial,” Thomas wrote. “Throughout the Muslim world, America is condemned not mainly because of its ideas but because Islamists believe we are infidels opposed to God.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of a daily radio program, also applauded the core of Boykin’s message. Mohler said a “great deal is riding on this controversy.”

“[H]e is obviously correct in pointing to a spiritual battle underneath the military action in the war on terror,” Mohler wrote in a column. “Only the most harebrained secularist would find this kind of language offensive. But offended, they are. Their basic problem with Gen. Boykin is that he is an evangelical Christian who is bold to talk about his faith.”
With reporting by Erin Curry & Michael Foust

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