Army withdraws Franklin Graham Pentagon prayer day invitation
By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 22, 2010
Related story from April 16, 2003: Pentagon says it won't withdraw Franklin Graham's invitation to speak
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has disinvited Franklin Graham to speak at the Pentagon on National Prayer Day after a military advocacy group objected because Graham has reportedly described Islam as “evil” and “wicked.”
“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,” Graham said in a statement on Thursday.
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.”
Graham was expected to speak at the Pentagon on May 6, drawing the ire of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group focused on religious favoritism in the military.
The group had been prepared to seek a temporary restraining order against National Prayer Day if it were “polluted by someone as hideously Islamophobic as Franklin Graham,” said Mikey Weinstein, head of the group.
In a 2001 op-ed piece, Graham wrote that he does not believe Muslims are evil, but he objects to the treatment of women in Muslim countries and Islam’s historic “persecution or elimination” of other religions.
On Thursday, Graham told Fox News that while he loves Muslims, “I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam and I want them to know they can be free through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.”Council on American Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said it is “completely inappropriate” for Graham to speak in front of a military audience.
“These are individuals who are potentially going to be stationed in Muslim majority nations, and they don’t need to hear from someone spreading hatred of Islam and Muslims,” Hooper said.
“What does that say to those who are going to be asked to serve in these regions and how is that going to affect their interaction with the local population?” Graham is honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a group that organizes Christian events that was invited to participate in National Day of Prayer by the Pentagon chaplain’s office.
An Army spokesman told the Associated Press the Pentagon’s relationship with the Christian group does not violate Defense Department rules.
We are an all-inclusive military,” said Col. Tim Collins. “We hold observances throughout the year. This one happens to be a Christian-themed event.”
But his comments were criticized by the Secular Coalition for America, an advocacy for non-religious Americans.
“For the Pentagon to hold an explicitly ‘Christian-themed event’ around the day of prayer is brazenly out of all reasonable bounds, and explicitly exclusionary to U.S. servicemembers of all non-Christian faiths and of no faith,” group Executive Director Sean Faircloth said in a release.