The Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast will go ahead Thursday morning as planned despite scrutiny from organizations whose members oppose the views its keynote speaker, retired Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, holds about Islam.
Tho organizations: People for the American Way, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have sent emails to Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan asking him to disinvite Boykin from speaking at Thursday morning's breakfast at the Clarion Hotel.
Boykin has spoken publicly, about his belief that Islam is not a religion, but instead a totalitarian way of life.
âIt (Islam) should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Koran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with Sharia law,â he said in one on-line interview.
His comments on Islam earned him a rebuke from former President George W. Bush. nevertheless, he is still invited to speak on Thursday.
The event carries the mayor's name, but is not funded or endorsed by the city. It was founded in 1990 by Bruce Spangler, a former Ocean City police lieutenant who organizes the event each year and is in charge of acquiring speakers, a process Meehan does not take part in. Meehan is an invited guest, and his role is to welcome attendees and introduce other elected officials and dignitaries who are in attendance, the mayor said.
A spokeswoman for Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan confirmed that the mayor will appear at the prayer breakfast, but she stressed that it is not an official, town-sanctioned event.
Councilwoman Mary Knight said she had first heard of Boykin's views in early December, and that she had been assured he would speak appropriately at the breakfast. In the past couple days, she has received more than 300 emails from people about the event, most of which are forwarded versions of the emails circulated about it by the two protesting organizations. Councilman Brent Ashley's inbox had more than 170 messages.
Knight said Tuesday she is not sure whether she attend â she hadn't bought a ticket yet. Ashley said he has a prior engagement, and will not attend the breakfast.
âI wasn't familiar with General Boykin, but he's a guest in our community for that event and I'm sure he's going to follow the same pattern that other speakers have, and be very respectful to all those who are in attendance."
In response, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan issued the following statement: "The Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, despite being privately funded and managed, is still the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. Mayor Rick Meehan was not personally involved in inviting Jerry Boykin to speak, but he is nonetheless giving him a platform. Mayor Meehan's planned participation on Thursday would provide an endorsement on behalf of the city. He should exercise his prerogative as mayor to disinvite Jerry Boykin or not attend and remove the official imprimatur from the event. âOcean City works hard to maintain its reputation as a family-friendly destination open to all-comers. An official endorsement of Jerry Boykin would send the wrong message about what the city stands for.â Mayor Meehan said he doesn't expect Boykin to say anything radical, just to tell a story of the role God has played in his life.
"I've always found it to be an uplifting event, and I don't think it should be any different this year," Meehan said. "I wasn't familiar with Gen. Boykin, but he's a guest in our community for that event and I'm sure he's going to follow the same pattern that other speakers have, and be very respectful to all those who are in attendance."
Spangler, who invited the controversial speaker, said Boykin has also spoken of operations in Iran, Somalia -- where he commanded the infamous "Black Hawk Down" mission -- and Grenada, and explained how his faith helped him to overcome difficulties he encountered during them. Spangler said he expects Boykin's speech at the breakfast to be more in the vein of this type of testimony.
"We're not here to try and start trouble or cause any dissension or anything like that. We're here to give an uplifting experience for people," Spangler said. "If you've got a good story to tell and the Lord worked in your life, I want to hear it."
"Some OC officials try to distance themselves from prayer breakfast, but Boykin will speak as planned" People for the American Way January 25, 2012
Christian Schaffer, "Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast Draws Criticism" ABC 2 January 2012
Scott Muska, "OC prayer breakfast speaker's views about Islam draw scrutiny" DelMarVa Now January 25, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today