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Prayer breakfast speaker goes unannounced after ’12 controversy

(Jan. 11, 2013) Besides bacon, eggs, and good fellowship, prospective attendees at this year’s OC Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast can add another attraction to their list – mystery.

As a result of last year’s controversial choice, the name of the guest speaker for this year’s event – set for Thursday, Jan. 17 – will not be released beforehand.

“I’m not giving names out anymore,” said event director Bruce Spangler. “After what happened last year, it’s just not worth it.”

Briefly before the January 2012 event, Spangler announced that retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin would be the breakfast’s keynote speaker. But despite his popularity as a decorated military commander and ordained minister – he was billed as such by Spangler – Boykin also previously expressed a number of anti-Muslim and far-right political views that caused a storm of objection from both inside and outside the resort community.

However, Spangler was confident that attendance, which is typically near 400, would still be high this year. Despite the public not knowing who was speaking, the event has a long history of success.

“This is our 23rd year putting on a good event,” Spangler said. “It’s not going to make a difference [if the speaker is billed or not].”

Spangler said he had looked into a number of speakers, many of whom had stories of redemption to tell with regards to their checkered pasts. As with Boykin, Spangler said he feared public backlash at speakers’ previous positions, which he said would detract from the less divisive topics on which they had been asked to speak at the Ocean City event.

“The Lord can forgive anybody. That’s the whole point,” Spangler said.

In 1993, Boykin became popular for leading elite Delta Force commando units during the ultimately failed and bloody attempt to capture Somali warlord Osman Atto in Mogadishu, as depicted in the film “Black Hawk Down.” But as his position in the spotlight brightened, Boykin began to become a central figure and advocate for a number of far-right causes.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but before his 2007 retirement, Boykin gave a number of interviews and opinions that framed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Biblical terms.

In 2003, he went so far as to explain his motivation in the fight against Atto, who is still currently operating in Somalia and is active in its transitional government, by stating “I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

The comments earned him a rebuke from then-President George W. Bush, and a censure from the Pentagon, which found that he had consistently failed to portray his views as his own and not official military analysis.

In 2010, he co-authored a report for the neoconservative Center for Security Policy that alleges “most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized,” and that “most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists.” The Pentagon and State Department again publicly chastised Boykin.

This past July, after his appearance in Ocean City, Boykin was named the executive vice president of the Family Research Council, an organization that opposes rights for homosexuals and was classified in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and by extension the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as an anti-gay hate group.

However, a speaker who operates under assumptions viewed by many as dubious may again be in the offing for the prayer breakfast.

Although this year’s guest will remain unnamed until the event, Spangler has released a synopsis of the session, which discusses the Biblical ramifications of American-Israeli relations.

Specifically, Spangler’s preview links natural disasters and social upheaval to a lack of support for Israeli land rights, using the example – often cited by Zionist supporters in America – of the 1991 “perfect storm” striking President George H.W. Bush’s Maine home briefly after he supported Israeli concessions in the Madrid land-for-peace agreements.

“You’ll find out that this isn’t just coincidence. It’s unbelievable,” Spangler said. “The Bible is predicting everything we’re going through.”

“He has it documented,” Spangler said of this year’s speaker. “You can make your own determinations, but when you start seeing all these things come to pass, it’s more than just a coincidence.”

The breakfast will be held at the Clarion on 101st Street. This year’s event will follow the same general format as in the past, with a buffet breakfast served beginning at 7 a.m. Mayor Rick Meehan will deliver a welcome message, followed by scripture readings and songs. The featured speaker will be last, ending at 9:15.

Tickets cost $16, and will not be sold at the door.

Spangler asked that those who wish to attend notify him by Monday, Jan 14, either by e-mailing him at ocmayorsprayerbreakfast@comcast.net, or by calling at 443-235-2669.

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