General Boykin Censured for Church Remarks

NYT – General Said to Be Faulted Over Speeches [RSS]
WaPo – General’s Speeches Broke Rules
LA Times – General’s Speeches Broke Pentagon Rules
Chicago Sun-Times – General’s church remarks on terrorism broke rules
Newsday – Probe: Minor offenses only
Washington Times – General cleared in church speeches case
BBC – US general ‘censured’ for remarks
TV New Zealand – ‘Satan’ speeches weren’t cleared
Islam Online – CAIR Welcomes Pentagon Report on Boykin

A Pentagon investigation has concluded that a senior intelligence officer violated regulations by failing to make it clear that he was not acting in an official capacity when, in speaking at churches, he cast the war on terrorism in religious terms, a Defense Department official said Thursday. In most instances the officer, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, was wearing his Army uniform. The inquiry, by the Defense Department’s deputy inspector general, found that General Boykin, deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence [He’s a uniformed officer; he can’t be DUSD. -ed.], had also violated Pentagon rules by failing to obtain advance clearance for his remarks, which gained wide publicity through news reports last fall.

In one appearance, according to those reports, General Boykin told a religious group in Oregon that Islamic extremists hated the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians.” Discussing a 1993 battle by American soldiers against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, he told an audience: “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” He also declared in one of his speeches that the enemy in the antiterrorism fight was Satan and that God had put President Bush in the White House.

The report on the Boykin investigation has not been publicly released. Its findings were described Thursday by a senior Pentagon official familiar with its conclusions. The report says that in considering possible action against the general, the Army should take into account that he consulted military lawyers in advance about the propriety of making the speeches and was not advised against doing so.

The Washington Post, which reported the conclusion of the investigation on Thursday, said the inquiry had determined that General Boykin discussed his involvement in the war on terrorism at 23 religious-oriented events beginning in January 2002 and that he wore his uniform while speaking at all but two. He spoke mostly at Baptist or Pentecostal churches.

Regardless of the headline, the finding seems odd to me. On the one hand, if the man cleared his remarks with JAG attorneys ahead of time, he certainly shouldn’t be punished. But anyone who has attained general officer rank ought to know better than this. He’s got no business going off post and expressing his views on politics or religion while wearing his country’s uniform. That’s unacceptable behavior for a soldier of any rank, let alone a flag officer.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jem says:

    A note on your editorial remark (He’s a uniformed officer; he can’t be DUSD. -ed). Your view differs from that of the Armed Forces Information Service, as posted on Defenselink:

    Dr. Cambone identified Boykin as the head of one of four offices reporting directly to him. Here’s that link:

  2. Jem says:

    But I do agree completely that the comments as reported (given past performance of the media, it is not a foregone conclusion that his actual comments were as explosive as reported) are out of line, especially if delivered in uniform or otherwise relating them to his official capacity.