Group Opposes Planned Franklin Graham Speech at Pentagon

imagesbannerscp_150x601Reprinted by permission of the Christian Post

By Nathan Black|Christian Post Reporter

Evangelist Franklin Graham is scheduled to speak at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer.

But his invitation has riled up at least one group which is demanding a more “inclusive speaker” for the event on May 6.

Michael L. Weinstein of Military Religious Freedom Foundation is vehemently opposed to Graham speaking for the Pentagon’s NDP event because of the evangelist’s former comments on Islam being an “evil” religion and his ties to conservative Christian group the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

“Mr. Graham has never retracted or apologized for these statements, and, in fact, was still defending them as recently as December 2009 in an appearance on CNN,” Weinstein wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates this week.

Franklin Graham (Photo credit: Paul M. Walsh)

Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, drew fire after the 2001 terrorist attacks when he called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.”

He has since clarified his remarks, saying he does not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. But he decried the evil that has been done in the name of Islam.

Last year, he told CNN’s Campbell Brown, “I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam. I find it to be a very violent religion.”

His spokesman, Mark DeMoss, told The Associated Press that Graham hasn’t changed his views on Islam.

Graham had been invited to speak at the Pentagon in 2003, which outraged the Muslim community. His invitation to speak at the Pentagon this year prompted some U.S. military personnel and DoD employees of the Muslim faith to contact the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for help, according to Weinstein.

“MRFF hereby demands … that the Pentagon Chaplains Office immediately rescind its invitation to Mr. Graham,” wrote Weinstein, a ’77 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Weinstein further blasted the Pentagon Chaplains Office for its affiliation with the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which he described as being exclusively fundamentalist Christian.

Graham is the honorary chairman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force this year.

“While the NDPTF, of course, has every right, as a private organization, to organize exclusively Christian events and to prohibit the participation of non-Christians, the Pentagon Chaplains Office absolutely cannot endorse or provide a selective benefit to this non-federal entity by shamefully, disgracefully, and unconstitutionally affiliating the Pentagon NDP event with it,” Weinstein asserted.

The complaint comes days after a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a federal statute creating the “National Day of Prayer” and ruled it as unconstitutional.

Graham denounced the ruling, saying the nation is in need of prayer now more than ever.

“To act like a National Day of Prayer is a bad thing or somehow subversive is ridiculous,” he said in an earlier statement. “At a time when our country is waging two wars, approval ratings for Congress are at historic lows, unemployment is at a 70-year high and financial institutions have collapsed around us, I can’t imagine anyone seriously opposing a National Day of Prayer.”

Christians have been urged to sign a petition supporting the annual prayer observance and are also asking President Obama to appeal the decision. Obama still intends to recognize the National Day of Prayer on May 6.

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.

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10 Responses to “Group Opposes Planned Franklin Graham Speech at Pentagon”

  1. Bob

    Have been meaning to ask you what you think about the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. You have really and rightfully made me aware that the Constitution specifically lays out the powers of the Congress and those powers not mentioned fall to the states. Since the Constitution does not give Congress the specific power to establish national days of prayer or national days 'not to pray' etc, wouldn't a National Prayer Day be outside the Congress's power to establish ?

  2. That's a good question, and one that may surprise you to find that I'm a little divided on.

    On one hand, as you pointed out, there is no expressed power for congress to declare a National Day of Prayer. Certainly I believe all Americans, including Christians and atheists, can agree that neither congress nor any agency of our government is authorized to force prayer on any given day or any day at all.

    Nevertheless, since before we even became a nation and many times throughout our history before there was an officially designated National Day of Prayer, our presidents and congresses have declared numerous days of prayer and fasting, especially when our nation was in dire trouble. This has been well in keeping with the strong Christian heritage of our country, and this Christian heritage was acknowledged in 1983 in Marsh vs. Chambers regarding the propriety of prayer at the beginning of legislative meetings.

    With regard to a proclamation coming from the president rather than congress (whose authority is outlined in Article 1 Section 8), I like Madison's take on the matter:

    “There has been another deviation from the strict principle in the Executive Proclamations of fasts & festivals, so far, at least, as they have spoken the language of injunction, or have lost sight of the equality of all religious sects in the eye of the Constitution. Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes, according to their own faith & forms. In this sense, I presume you reserve to the Govt. a right to appoint particular days for religious worship throughout the State, without any penal sanction enforcing the worship.”

    He recognizes the rightness of it and that historical homage to the Author of All Blessings, while at the same time treading lightly and realizing the potential pitfall of possibly mandating religious observance and exercise.

    The most recent manifestation of the National Day of Prayer, stemming a congressional resolution in 1952, is a bit more of a question, again recognizing the legislative limits of congress both under the Bill of Rights and Article 1 Section 8.

    But then, flipping back to “the other hand” yet again, a resolution does not have the force of law, but is a mere statement of sentiment, and is not binding on anyone with compulsion for action or inaction.

    In the end, I'm troubled by the continuing assault on the expression of faith in the public square, and as I've pointed out countless times, those assaults are myriad and with more regard for contempt for Christianity than for the rule of law.

    But unless someone convinces me different, if this decision is ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, I won't be gravely disappointed (disappointed, but not gravely so) so long as “we the people” through private promotional organizations like the NDP Task Force continue to observe this important need for our country on our own, with or without the official sanction of our government.

  3. Bob

    Ouite a thorough and candid summation and as I have been guilty of before, agree that there is an anti-Christian bias present in the U.S. Appreciate your thoughts and the wisdom of our Founders. No further comments from me on this issue

  4. Thanks. If you don't mind, do you have any observations on the matter beyond what you wrote on another thread that examines the decision?

  5. Sorry Bob, I am not sure what thread of which you are referring or I am just missing your question.Synapses must be slow tonight

  6. Oh yes. I thought I was pointing out that since our Founders were mainly Christian and that Christianity has been the predominant religion in the U.S., that when anyone speaks of or proposes a National Day of Prayer, it is an usually endorsement for Christianity. I doubt Harry Truman in 1952 or Eisenhower , when they proposed a NDP, were thinking of Islam or Judaism or Taoism. I understand that . It is human nature.

    I do still think it is a little disingenuous for.. say… a George Bush to advocate a NDP but then claim it isn't targeted for his religion when he deeply feels his religion is the correct one and it mandates that you try to convert others. Seems inherently problematic to me- balancing what your faith commands you to do against being the head of a secular government.

    Now I think that is a different issue than the issue of the constitutionality of Congress establishing a religious day of any type, since that power is not specifically given them in the Constitution.

  7. I watched a surprisingly emotional documentary the other night that explored (from a Christian filmmaker's perspective) the potential reasons why there is so much backlash against the Christian community in America… “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers”

    I really think this is an important movie with a beautiful message about Christianity.

    If you haven't seen it, it's available to watch online at Netflix.

  8. I haven't seen the film, but based on what I've read of it, I'd be cautious about blindly accepting its message as accurate.

    It seems to craft the message that Christ's followers are an oppressive, hateful lot who are nothing like Christ himself.

    While it is true that many times Christians lack the joy we should have, Christ also made it clear that his message of truth would not be popular:

    “All men will hate you because of me”

    “You will be hated by all nations because of me”

    “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other”

    “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”

    “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

    “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

    “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”

    Some people hear the truth that they are sinners and must turn from their ways and to Christ's way, and the accept that truth and change.

    Other people hear that same truth, and because their hearts are proud and they don't want to change, they reject the message and the one who brings the message.

    That won't change as long as Christ's people do as Christ commanded and tell others what he has taught them.