By JOHN FORTMEYER
VANCOUVER, Wash. — It’s billed every year as a mayors’ prayer breakfast, and although controversy over the featured speaker caused most local mayors not to attend this time, the event still drew a very large and enthuastic crowd.
“I kind of feel you all came here just to see if I would say something stupid,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin quipped, drawing laughs from the more than 700 people attending the 13th annual Clark County Mayors’ and Civic Leaders Prayer Breakfast at the Vancouver Hilton Oct. 17.
Judging from the crowd’s response during his half-hour talk, Boykin’s perspectives on faith and the world situation were seen by them as anything but stupid. His remarks drew frequent applause and, at one point early in his speech, a standing ovation, when he made one thing unmistakably clear: “I stand firmly with the state of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Boykin’s fighting spirit is evident. He became a founding member and later commander of the world’s premier special operations unit, Delta Force. Today he is on the front life of America’s religious freedom struggles as executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Fa-mily Research Council, a Christian voice for traditional values. He is known for taking firm stands on a variety of topics, which also makes him a point of controversy.
In the days just prior to the breakfast, which was sponsored by the Full Gos-
pel Business Men’s Fel-lowship in America, Christian Chamber of Commerce of the Northwest and other groups, Washington state Muslims urged organizers to drop him from the event. Describing Boykin as an “anti-Muslim bigot,” they said he has labeled Islam a “totalitarian way of life” that runs counter to American freedom and values. Boykin’s appearances at other events have been opposed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
After hearing of the concerns over Boykin, Vancou-ver Mayor Tim Leavitt, who had been scheduled to act as the event’s host, opted to boycott the breakfast. No members of the Vancouver City Council attended, most of the county’s other mayors also stayed away, and the Clark County YMCA, which had been a sponsor of the event, withdrew its support.
On the morning of the breakfast, more than a dozen people stood outside holding signs protesting Boykin. They included state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and two local pastors.
But their concerns did not diminish the enthusiasm of the breakfast-goers who listened with rapt attention as Boykin told how his Christian faith sustained him through many dangerous military missions, one of which nearly cost him his arm, if not for what he said was a miraculous healing touch from God.
“A warrior is one that serves for a transcendent cause,” he said. “We are in spiritual warfare every day. If you will stand and be counted, God will bless you as a warrior.”
During his talk, Boykin held up both a Bible and a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution that he says he carries with him constantly.
Both are cornerstones of America’s founding and its freedoms, he said.
“I love this nation, but America needs to turn back to God,” Boykin said. “We need to ask God help us turn back to our first love, and the first love of our founding fathers was God.
“If we pray, America can be restored.”