In an interesting turn of events, during his North Carolina vacation President Obama visited Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham — after a week that saw the Pentagon rescind an invitation to the younger Graham over his religious views. Though the visit was initiated after the Pentagon’s announcement, it is likely Obama’s intent was to visit the elder Graham. The Obamas received a gift, and the two gentlemen prayed for each other:
At the end, Graham presented Obama with two Bibles — one for him and the other for first lady Michelle Obama, Ross said. The two men then prayed together, with Obama first praying for Graham and then Graham “concluded with a prayer for the president, his family and his administration,” according to Ross.
Update: Franklin Graham apparently got the ear of the President – and a seemingly supportive (or diplomatic) reply — over the recent incident:
In reference to the invitation being rescinded, Franklin Graham told The Associated Press that he told the president that activists were trying to remove all religion from the military, and he said Obama pledged to look into it.
The “disinvitation” of Franklin Graham from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer has continued to raise the ire of a variety of public figures.
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), a member of the Armed Services Committee, had this to say:
“To ban from an ecumenical service every person who believes their faith is the true religion is taking political correctness several steps too far.” Ministers who have “fervently advocated their own religious beliefs in an entirely different context” should not be prohibited from participating in ecumenical events, the senator continues.
“What they’re saying is that a Christian evangelist who has basically given his message publicly to the exclusion of other religions is somehow now unfit to go to an evangelical prayer event. If you take it to that extreme, any preacher who’d ever preached revival [or] brought the message of Jesus dying for our sins would now be excluded from being invited to a prayer event at a defense facility because they’re being exclusive,” he concludes.
Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He responded by saying:
that the Army’s decision is “a blow to free speech, which is of course a blow to religious freedom.”
“The people who serve our nation in uniform deserve better leadership than that which is responsible for this wrongheaded and sad decision. This is not the kind of religious freedom for which our servicemen are risking their lives to defend.”
“I am shocked and dismayed the Pentagon would rescind Franklin Graham’s invitation to speak at the National Day of Prayer observance at the Pentagon. Supposedly they were concerned that some Pentagon employees who are followers of Islam would be offended by Dr. Graham’s appearance. Did anyone stop to ask how many more of the Pentagon’s employees who are followers of Christ would be and are offended by his dis-invitation?” Land said.
Cal Thomas wondered aloud when Muslim speakers would cease being invited by the military, and he had a rather interesting suggestion: Christians in the military should abandon any pretense of “inclusive” events:
The second point to be made is that Christians with a strong and unapologetic faith in Jesus Christ ought to exempt themselves from these “inclusive” events. It is they who are almost always required not to pray in the name of Jesus and to make other acommodations to other faiths with no reciprocity expected from those other faiths.
The Gospel of Christ is not inclusive, but exclusive. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
If the Army wants to submit itself to the censorship efforts of Islam, that’s the business of the Army.
Some sites have included a longer portion of the military’s statement, which may expand on their perspective:
Once the Army leadership became aware that Reverend Graham was speaking at this event, we immediately recognized it as problematic,” Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, said. “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.” (emphasis added)
The implication seems to be that if Graham were speaking on May 5 or 7, or if the “event” were not the NDoP, his statements would not have been a problem. Unfortunately, the military has not proactively reinforced that position, if it is correct.