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Religious Rhetoric of General Has No Place In Govt

Interfaith Alliance: Inflammatory Religious Rhetoric of Army General Has No Place In U.S. Government, Middle East

10/16/03 2:20:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: Kim Baldwin or John Peterson, 202-639-6370 both of the Interfaith Alliance

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- This morning, The Interfaith Alliance, the nation's leading interfaith organization, issued a response to last night's report on NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and this morning's article in the Los Angeles Times exposing divisive statements on Islam by the new Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Lt. Gen. William Boykin. The Interfaith Alliance calls on President Bush to reprimand Gen. Boykin. General Boykin is responsible for finding high-profile terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and as the LA Times reports, "he sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan."

"According to the LA Times, General Boykin's new assignment puts him squarely at the table with many Muslim leaders in the Middle East" said Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance. "Given his discordant views on Islam -- as reported in detail -- and other religions, can General Boykin serve the US while in the Middle East with the necessary respect and diplomacy? At this point, I would have to say no."

"In the days after September 11, President Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C and said, 'Islam is Peace... When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race,'" reminded Gaddy. "The remarks of General Boykin fly in the face of the pleas of the president and violate the basic principles of tolerance and inclusion that are implicit in the culture of this nation."

"Religion can play a positive and healing role in our nation; unfortunately that potential will not be realized until those who claim to speak for people of faith reflect in their rhetoric adherence to the core values of the range of rich religious traditions in this nation. The Interfaith Alliance affirms the right of all Americans to speak publicly about their religious beliefs, but also believes it is offensive and audacious to critique or define another's deity or tradition, especially when their leadership role calls for working with people of different faiths."

As people of faith and good will, The Interfaith Alliance promotes the shared religious values of our diverse faith traditions -- human dignity, mutual respect, civility, compassion and justice -- values that complement and strengthen the ideals we associate with the common good. General Boykin's remarks are contrary to those very ideals we work to uphold.

As an example of the Army's policy towards persons of different faiths, the Code of Ethics for Chaplains of the Armed Forces states that, "I will respect the beliefs and traditions of my colleagues and those to whom I minister. When conducting services of worship that include persons of other than my religious body, I will draw upon those beliefs, principles and practices that we have in common."

In a letter to be delivered to President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld later this afternoon seeking General Boykin's reprimand, Rev. Gaddy offered these parting thoughts:

"When will those in the national spotlight realize that their appalling and divisive attacks refute the positive and healing role that religion can play in public life?

"When will those who proclaim to be Christian adhere to the tenets of Christian faith that call for a love of neighbor and a respect for human dignity?

"When will those promoting the language of hate realize that their comments only serve to further harm and divide?

"When will those who proclaim to be speaking for people of faith act on their beliefs and work to counter division and prejudice in our nation?

LINKS:

White House Press Release, "Islam is Peace" Says President Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. web: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010917-11.html

LA Times Story web: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-general16oct16,1,7655334.story?coll=la-home-headlines

MSNBC Story (Boykin Remarks to Evangelical church groups) web: http://www.msnbc.com/news/980841.asp

---

Founded in 1994, The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) is a non-partisan, clergy-led grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in the life of the nation and challenging those who manipulate religion to promote a narrow, divisive agenda. With more than 150,000 members drawn from over 65 faith traditions, 38 local Alliances and a national network of religious leaders, TIA promotes compassion, civility and mutual respect for human dignity in our increasingly diverse society.

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