Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast Draws Criticism

Scheduled speaker is an outspoken critic of Islam

An Ocean City tradition is drawing a lot of attention this year.

The Ocean City Mayor's Prayer Breakfast is set for this Thursday, and it will feature a speaker whose comments have put him in the national spotlight on more than one occasion.

Retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin has spoken publicly, about his belief that Islam is not a religion, but instead a totalitarian way of life.

"It (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," he said in one on-line interview.

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.

Boykin has become a hero to far-right conservatives, and a target, for left-leaning groups such as "People For the American Way."

"I think he is a promoter of religious bigotry, and a promoter of religious discrimination," said Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow for People for the American Way.  The Washington organization advocates for First Amendment rights – and its members monitor everything Boykin says.

They've spent the past several weeks sending hundreds of e-mails to Mayor Meehan and other town officials in Ocean City.  Their message -- Boykin has a right to come, but they believe that if those officials appear with him, they'll be endorsing his ideas.  "Those are really extreme ideas and there are really un-American ideas and there are people in Ocean City who would be directly affected by that kind of bigotry," Montgomery said.

Boykin spent more than 30 years in the US Army, achieving the rank of Lieutenant General.  He retired as one of the highest-ranking officers in the Pentagon.

But his comments on Islam earned him a rebuke from former President George W. Bush.  And on Thursday, he'll bring those ideas, to ocean city.

"This is an extremist figure who has declared that members of one particular faith have no place in this country.  And I don't think that's a message that the public officials of ocean city should be endorsing," Montgomery said.

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