Muslims have demanded that Christian evangelist Franklin Graham be booted from yet another National Day of Prayer service, prompting officials with the National Day of Prayer Task Force to condemn as “ridiculous” the idea that religious leaders should be excluded from public events because of their faith statements.
The controversy began when the Army disinvited Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and
son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, from a prayer service at the Pentagon. Graham said his invitation to be
honorary chairman at the May 6 event was revoked after
Muslim members of the military complained about his description of
Islam after the 2001 terrorist attacks as “a very evil and wicked
Muslim activists then announced they were trying to get him barred from
a National Day of Prayer event scheduled with members of Congress, too.
“Moves to exclude any member of this great family from this prayer event represent everything that is wrong with the agenda of political correctness that is rampant in our country,” said Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the task force and wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
“Our nation’s founders wouldn’t have tolerated it, and neither should we,” she said.
Michael Calhoun, director of strategic communications for the task force, said the day is part of America’s heritage and belongs to all Americans.
“It provides an opportunity for citizens to pray
voluntarily, according to their own faith – and it does not promote any particular religion or form of religious observance. As a nonprofit organization, the National Day of Prayer Task Force has held an event at the Capitol for many years,” he said.
“The time of prayer is usually held in a room of the Cannon House Office Building that is used by many other organizations for various occasions,” he continued. “It is ridiculous for a small faction of detractors to contend that a group like the National Day of Prayer Task Force cannot invite an individual such as Franklin Graham, who is a well-respected public figure and humanitarian, to participate in such an event.”
Calhoun expects the Muslim activists to be unsuccessful in their demands to Congress.
“We are grateful that Rep. Robert Aderholt and other members of Congress are standing firm on this issue and have stated that the invitation will not be rescinded,” Calhoun said.
Shirley Dobson said, “Suggesting Mr. Graham should be removed from a National Day of Prayer event because of his religious opinions is absurd. No one understands better the need for prayer at this critical juncture in our nation’s history. The son of Franklin and Jane Graham is currently serving our military efforts overseas on his fourth combat tour. In addition, the Graham family has been faithfully serving the religious needs of Americans, including presidents, dating back to President Eisenhower.”
The Army was standing by its decision to prevent Graham from participating at the Pentagon event, based on complaints about his statements.
Spokesman Christopher Garvey told WND there were “concerns” expressed by Pentagon employees. But he said he was not aware that the complaints against Graham were themselves being evaluated for intolerance.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “I am not aware of any other discussions about any other individuals.”
The incident may be just the tip of the iceberg, however.
In December, WND reported a U.S. military officer’s research paper suggested Army officers should lose their evangelical Christian beliefs. Later, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs designated a special parcel of federal ground to be used to worship Mother Earth and the Horned God.
Then Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was disinvited to speak at a prayer luncheon at Andrews
Air Force Base because of his opposition to President
Obama’s call to allow homosexuals to serve in the military.
John Bornschein, executive director for the task force, said America “is engulfed in bloody wars on two fronts, where men and women are fighting and dying for the cause of liberty.”
“They need, and deserve, fervent prayers during their time of sacrifice,” he continued. “We at the National Day of Prayer Task Force ask the American people to defend the right to pray in the Pentagon and in all other public venues. Let your officials know that our 230-year heritage of prayer and faith must not be abandoned.”
Shirley Dobson said the Pentagon incident is just the latest assault on religious freedom and people of faith, a campaign that previously was carried by atheist groups and perpetuated through “the media, the government, the judiciary.”
“Prayers uttered by those in official positions are being met with hostility, or they have been banned outright,” she said. “This opposition represents a radical change of direction for this great land. National days of prayer have occurred since 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the nation to join in a petition for divine guidance.”
Citing a recent federal judge’s ruling that the National Day of Prayer itself is unconstitutional, Dobson said the Pentagon, “representing the most powerful military in the world, melted like butter” in the face of a few complaints from Muslim activists about Graham.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history, has boasted that it called for the military to remove Graham from the program at the Pentagon.
“We applaud this decision as a victory for common sense and good judgment,” Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, stated. “Promoting one’s own religious beliefs is something to be defended and encouraged, but other faiths should not be attacked or misrepresented in the process.”
Graham drew the ire of CAIR with a series of comments he has made in recent years on the practice of Islam around the world, referencing the beatings of women, the “honor killings” of family members “unfaithful” to Islam and the extreme violence that has by some estimates cost millions of Christians their lives in Africa.
Graham said he doesn’t believe Muslims are evil because of their faith, but, as a minister, he considers it his “responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching.”
The Army also confirmed the Pentagon event would continue without the National Day of Prayer Task Force representation. Garvey told WND with the removal of Graham, Thomas Preston of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board would be the primary speaker.
He confirmed the military’s decision regarding Graham was because of comments about Islam.
He said anyone with objections to the Pentagon’s actions regarding the National Day of Prayer could “raise that objection with the Pentagon chaplain’s office. If necessary, the Army leadership, which oversees the Pentagon chaplain’s office, would consider the issue.”
Awad said his organization hailed the decision “as a victory for common sense and good judgment.”
In an interview with CNN last year, Graham said in part: “[T]rue Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries. … I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.”
CAIR also confirmed it was asking members of Congress to disinvite the “anti-Islam preacher Franklin Graham.”
Corey Saylor, the organization’s national legislative director, said CAIR “supports the desirable goal of bringing Americans, regardless of their faith traditions, together in prayer” while lobbying for the ouster of Graham from yet another event.
He said Graham’s is a “message of religious intolerance” and insisted he should not be allowed to participate.
According to a report from CNSNews.com, Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican, wants congressional hearings to investigate the military’s actions.
“It shows that the Pentagon is using a systematic practice of weeding out preachers and leaders of the clergy who are willing to give biblically-based messages and sermons, which might ruffle some feathers in the diplomatic circles in which they are very concerned,” he said.
It calls for Americans to lose the Christian belief of premillennialism because of the damage it does to the nation’s foreign interests.
“As a result of millennarian influences on our culture, most Americans think as absolutists,” Maj. Brian L. Stuckert wrote in his 2008 course requirement at the school for military officers.
“A proclivity for clear differentiations between good, evil, right and wrong do not always serve us well in foreign relations or security policy,” he said. “Policy makers must strive to honestly confront their own cognitive filters and the prejudices associated with various international organizations and actors vis-à-vis premillennialism.”
He warned against the Christian beliefs espoused by many that the end times will involve Israel as God’s chosen nation, a final 1,000-year conflict between good and evil and an ultimate victory for God.
“No matter what the circumstances, the Army has no business bowing to the will of a group that has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case, and has had several of its officials convicted of jihad-terror-related charges,” Robert Spencer commented on his Jihad Watch blog.
Graham said in a statement he regretted the Army’s decision but expressed “strong support” for the U.S. military. He refused to revise his past comments.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the “attack on Franklin Graham and Christians was engineered by CAIR and it has the fingerprints of Barack Obama’s White House all over it.”
The nonprofit Military Religious Freedom Foundation also put pressure on the Army to disinvite Graham, outlining its objections in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.