- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - A war of words has erupted over a Kansas military base’s decision to disinvite a highly decorated retired officer from a prayer breakfast because of complaints about his views on transgender bathrooms and Muslims.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin had been scheduled to speak Monday as part of the 1st Infantry Division’s “Victory Week.” That invitation was rescinded last week after Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, protested to base commander Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby.

Boykin spent 36 years in the Army and led the elite Delta Force in attempts to recover hostages in Iran, apprehend Manuel Noriega and track drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. He later served as deputy undersecretary of defense under President George W. Bush and has two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.

But he also has drawn attention for claiming Islam doesn’t deserve First Amendment protection and that President Barack Obama subliminally supports al-Qaida, and has made comments about transgender people that were perceived as threats.

Speaking to a group of conservatives in Orlando, Florida, in March about the transgender bathroom issue, he said, “The first man who goes into the restroom with my daughter will not have to worry about surgery.”

After a backlash from the LGBT community, he said the statement was meant to be humorous and not a call for violence.

The removal of Boykin as speaker sparked an outcry from supporters who said the decision ignored the will of an overwhelming majority of Fort Riley soldiers, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1Ug90hz ) reported.

Former presidential candidate Ted Cruz called the rescinded invitation “unbelievable and unconscionable.” U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who represents Fort Riley in Congress, took aim at Weinstein, calling the former Air Force officer radically “anti-First Amendment” and “un-American.”

Weinstein responded that Huelskamp “has no idea what he’s talking about” and should be ashamed of insulting Weinstein, a veteran with two sons who graduated from the Air Force Academy.

A week before the scheduled prayer breakfast, Grigsby received an email from Weinstein, who called Boykin the antithesis of critical Army values.

The next day, June 1, Weinstein received a response from Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne, the 1st Infantry Division’s chief public affairs officer.

“Boykin’s credentials as a soldier and leader speak for themselves and his 36 years of service to our nation are worthy of our respect and admiration,” he wrote. “However, in an effort to ensure everyone in our broad and very diverse community feels welcome at any event on Fort Riley, we will pursue the invitation of a different speaker for the prayer breakfast once it is rescheduled.”

Boykin said “military leaders today lack moral courage.”

“How can we expect to win wars with a military like this gripped by such political correctness?” he asked in a Facebook post.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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