Readers criticize Boykin essay on Islam & religious freedom

Centennial Review, the monthly speech digest from Centennial Institute, welcomes comments and concerns from our readers. The current issue on “Sharia Law or the Constitution? America Must Choose,” by Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, US Army (Ret.), drew adverse reactions from James Moore of Lakewood, Colorado, on a side issue in the discussion (polygamy) and from Karen Stein of Dakota Dunes, SD, on the General’s main argument about limits to religious freedom.

Col. Moore’s letter regarding who is a Mormon and what Mormons believe or permit, is posted here. Moore Disputes Boykin Feb2011

Ms. Stein’s remarks were as follows:

Just as Islamic extremists pervert Islam, Boykin perverts both US Constitutional Law and the commands of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves. His calls to prosecute Islamic leaders and imams for advocating Sharia law and to investigate Mosques and “find” violations of law, because of their rhetoric, are shocking travesties of fundamental rights of free speech and free exercise of religion that should make all freedom loving Americans gag in revulsion.

If we turn his comments around and say that churches should be investigated and closed (or at least have their tax exempt status forfeited!) for advocating, say a ban on gay marriage based on moral law, his anti-American, anti-US Constitution bent becomes clear. We don’t prosecute people in this country for advocacy. We don’t investigate organizations for rhetoric. We don’t go searching for “violations of law” in order to find reasons to close meeting places.

The solution to wrongful advocacy is advocacy for moral truth and reason. The solution to hateful rhetoric is preaching the love and truth of Jesus. The solution to violations of law is even-handed law enforcement. If we no longer can rely on those truths, then the cliche really will apply: the terrorists have won. (Contact her at ellesmere@astound.net)

John Andrews, director of Centennial Institute and editor of Centennial Review, commented: “I thank Col. James Moore, who happens to be a personal friend as well as a former member of the Colorado General Assembly, for his civil and military service to our country and his clear statement of official LDS policy. In Gen. Boykin’s defense, it should be noted that “Mormon” is indeed a nickname or informal description for a varied spectrum of Joseph Smith’s followers, including not only the main church body of Latter Day Saints whose stand against polygamy is clear, but also some splinter groups and fundamentalist sects that do in fact advocate and undertake plural marriage, legal or not.”

Andrews continued: “I also thank Karen Stein for her heartfelt and closely reasoned objection to the Boykin recommendations on legal sanctions against Sharia. Her hypothetical example involving (once again, interestingly) marriage—specifically, legal sanctions against religious objection to same-sex marriage—should indeed give us pause. Centennial Institute’s Kevin Miller similarly warns against the two-edged sword of “virtue politics” in his new book, Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally—or Socialism. In my view, however, Boykin is not advocating the sort of virtue cram-down against which Stein and Miller have written. Rather he is challenging us to think hard about the manifest incompatibility between a Koran-mandated legal-political-governmental-judicial system of Sharia and our U.S. Constitution. As I put it in the sidebar article alongside Boykin’s essay, the central and unavoidable (though painful) question is whether a good Muslim can be a good American. Ms. Stein seems to think the answer is yes. I remain unconvinced.”

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