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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Army Disinvites Franklin Graham from National Day of Prayer Event

Original article here.

April 22, 2010 7:12 PM
ABC News' Luis Martinez reports:
The Army has disinvited Christian evangelist Franklin Graham from speaking at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service on May 6 because of his past controversial comments about Islam.   In 2001, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham described Islam as evil and said last year that  he found it to be “a very violent religion.”

Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins confirmed today, that at the Army’s request, the Pentagon Chaplain’s Office had contacted Graham to withdraw the invitation extended to him to be the main speaker at the Pentagon’s observance of the National Day of Prayer.

Speaking of Graham’s past comments,  Collins said, “Army leadership became aware of the issue and immediately recognized it was problematic. ”  He added,  “This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue. ”

In a statement, Graham said he regretted the Army’s decision and that he would continue to pray for the troops to "give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country."

How the Army got involved was a convoluted process  because they did not extend the invite to Graham in the first place.  That was done by the Pentagon’s Chaplain’s Office, but the Army is responsible for that office in its capacity as “executive agent.” When Graham’s past comments came to light, the pressure grew on the Army to decide whether it would let Graham still speak at the event.

The Muslim American advocacy organization, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) hailed the Army’s decision.  

“We applaud this decision as a victory for common sense and good judgment,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "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."

An Army statement today said the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer event would still continue as scheduled.
The annual observance of a  National Day of Prayer was established by Congress in 1952, but just last week a federal  court ruled the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional because it amounts to a call for religious action violating the separation of church and state.  The Justice Department filed a notice today that it will challenge the ruling.

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