Washington — Breaking with the White House, religious conservatives in Congress defended a Pentagon general who referred to the war on terror as a Christian fight against Satan.
In remarks some say were demeaning to Islam, Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin told church audiences his mission was "a battle with Satan." The struggle, Boykin said, is "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., drafted a letter Monday asking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld not to discipline Boykin, saying that elected officials and military leaders have talked about God and spiritual matters throughout U.S. history.
"As elected officials serving in the United States Congress, we recognize the vital importance our personal faiths play in helping us make decisions," Tiahrt wrote. "We ask that any actions taken in response to Lt. Gen. Boykin's remarks not, in any way, intimidate the free religious exercise of his faith."
Boykin, a three-star general, is deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
The Kansas congressman circulated the letter among colleagues, among them Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who signed the letter.
"The general is an outstanding leader and is widely respected in the military," Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said.