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The Army has withdrawn an invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at a special Pentagon prayer service next month because of his controversial views on Islam, said Col. Thomas Collins, spokesman for the U.S. Army.
Colins said Graham’s remarks were “not appropriate. We’re an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths. … Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”
Graham issued this statement: “I regret that the Army felt it was necessary to rescind their invitation to the National Day of Prayer Task Force to participate in the Pentagon’s special prayer service. I want to express my strong support for the United States military and all our troops. I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country.”
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objected to Graham’s scheduled appearance at the prayer event, largely because of his past remarks about Islam as an evil religion. “Lady liberty is smiling today,” said Weinstein, MRFF president, who sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, objecting to Graham’s scheduled appearance. Weinstein said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon and would endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.
Weinstein said the foundation’s DC attorney, Victor Glasberg, was planning today to go to court to seek a restraining order against the entire prayer event as unconstitutional. Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. “We congratulate the Pentagon for making the right decision, but it’s a shame that it had to be made under duress.” Weinstein said the Pentagon plans to replace Graham with “a more inclusive” interfaith figure.
Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, was invited to speak at the event by the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, which works with the Pentagon chaplain’s office on the prayer event. The task force organizes Christian events for the National Day of Prayer. Graham is president and CEO of both Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international relief organization in Boone, N.C., and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Graham said Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion.” In a later op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Graham wrote that he did not believe Muslims were evil because of their faith, but “as a minister …. I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching.”
Last month, in a video interview with On Faith’s Sally Quinn, Graha, repeated some of those remarks, but also said “I am not on a crusade against Muslims. I love the Muslim people . . . I want them to know that they don’t have to die in a car bomb, don’t have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God. But it’s through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.”
The MRFF claims to represent 17,000 members of the armed forces — 96 percent of whom are Protestant or Catholic. “Those who hate us really hate us today,” said Weinstein. “But those who love us really love us.”
Collins said the National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon “will continue as scheduled under the administration of the office of the Pentagon Chaplain.”