The U.S. Army on Thursday withdrew an invitation to a Christian evangelist to speak at a Pentagon prayer service next month following an outcry over his references to Islam as a violent religion.
Franklin Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said in a statement he regretted the Army’s decision and would keep praying for U.S. troops.
The invitation prompted a harsh reaction, including from a prominent U.S. Muslim group that said Graham’s appearance before Pentagon personnel would send the wrong message as the United States fights wars in Muslim countries.
In an interview last year with CNN, Graham said “true Islam” was too violent to be practiced in the United States.
“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,” he said.
“I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.”
The interview can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByovBdIRV2o
The Army said it did not invite Graham to the May 6 event organized through the Pentagon Chaplain’s office. The invitation was instead extended by the private, Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force.
“Once the Army leadership became aware that Reverand Graham was speaking at this event, we immediately recognized it as problematic,” said Colonel Tom Collins, an Army spokesman.
“The bottom line here is that his presence would be inappropriate. His past statements are not consistent with the multi-faith emphasis and inclusiveness of this event.”
The National Day of Prayer Task Force called the Pentagon’s decision part of an “assault on religious freedom and people of faith” driven by groups including the government and media.
“The Pentagon, representing the most powerful military in the world, melted like butter and withdrew the invitation,” it said, citing opposition by “a small group of naysayers.”