Romney Meets With Leader of Radical Christian Group, Despite Extremism Exposed By Their New Hire
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
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When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney met privately this week with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, he sought the counsel of a leader who, just days before, selected as his right-hand man a retired general known for his extreme contempt for Muslims.
Romney, hoping to draw the same kind of help organizing evangelical voters that Perkins gave former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum during the primaries, sought Perkins' input on potential running mates and "family" issues, barely 24 hours after FRC announced the hiring of retired Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin as executive vice president, in charge of day-to-day operations. It's a bold move, and one that makes FRC's extremism just a little harder to ignore.
Perkins and the Family Research Council have too often been treated by mainstream media as the reasonable and responsible wing of the Religious Right movement -- maybe because the former state representative has the polished presence of a politician and the Rolodex of a Washington insider. Republican officials flock to the Values Voter Summit, FRC's annual political gathering. But by hiring Boykin, FRC has dramatically undermined its claim to be an advocate for religious liberty as well as its efforts to position itself in the mainstream of the conservative movement.
While Perkins' extremism has largely flown below the media's radar, Boykin's style is in-your-face intolerance. In April, for instance, Boykin told Glenn Beck that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is a "Muslim Brotherhood facilitator." That’s the kind of rhetoric that got anti-Muslim zealot Frank Gaffney kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Now it's the kind of rhetoric that will define the Family Research Council.
Boykin may not be a household name, but he has in recent years become a folk hero on the far right. Boykin had a legendary military career as a leader of America’s special forces, but he was rebuked by then-President George W. Bush and by the Pentagon’s inspector general for giving speeches in uniform while dismissing the God of Islam as an "idol" and portraying the "War on Terror" as a spiritual war between "our God" (Christian) and Satan. That, of course, endangered members of the American military serving in armed conflicts and undercut the diversity of our armed forces.
After retiring, Boykin continued diving further into the deep end of Religious Right extremism. “Islam is evil,” he says; Islam is not a religion but a "totalitarian way of life." Boykin, a board member of the dominionist Oak Initiative, is a leader of the Religious-Right push to scare Americans into believing that the U.S. Constitution is under dire threat of being replaced by Sharia law. He is the co-author of Sharia, the Threat to America, popularly known as the Team B II report. Since, he has claimed, Muslims are under an "obligation to destroy our Constitution," American Muslims are not protected under the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. (Muslims, by the way, are under no such obligation.) He even said no mosques should be allowed to be built in America, though he has since backed away from that outrageous statement.
And Boykin is, like Perkins, unremittingly hostile to President Barack Obama. Boykin has charged that Obama is creating a Hitler-like cadre of Brownshirts to force Marxism down Americans’ throats. No wonder Tony Perkins loves him!
But what really made Boykin and FRC a match made in heaven is their shared expertise in portraying criticism of Religious-Right extremism as an attack on religious freedom. In March, AlterNet published "The Mythical Martyrdom of the Religious Right's Favorite Islamophobic General," People For the American Way Foundation’s report on the propaganda campaign to depict Boykin as victim of religious persecution.