The entire National Day of Prayer task force, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been "disinvited" to the National Day of Prayer observance to be held at the Pentagon, sources tell Newsmax.
And evangelist Franklin Graham believes the military’s effort to ban him and other Christian leaders is nothing short of an effort to stamp out Christianity from the military.
The Pentagon's decision to disinvite not only Graham, but also the National Day of Prayer task force led by author Shirley Dobson, the wife of influential Focus on the Family founder Dr. James C. Dobson, suggests the Pentagon's rejection of Christian leaders is much broader than previously recognized.
On Monday, evangelist Pat Robertson, the 700 Club founder, came to Franklin Graham's defense on his program, calling him "very courageous."
"You know," Robertson told viewers, "I met with his father some time ago and commented on the fact that I agreed with Franklin. And Billy said, 'Well look, I'm an evangelist. I don't want to get anybody upset, and attack anybody.' What Franklin said was that the Islam as practiced was evil. Boy, that started a firestorm. He stuck by his guns, and he's courageous, but he was disinvited to speak at the Pentagon service, which I don't think was a good thing."
The son of the world-renowned evangelist and counselor to presidents told CBN, "They disinvited, is my understanding, the National Day of Prayer."
A well-placed source at the National Day of Prayer task force confirmed Monday evening that it too has been excluded from the Pentagon event.
"The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of the task force to participate in the event, and Franklin, as our honorary chairman, was a part of that," the source tells Newsmax.
Also, Pentagon spokesman George B. Wright confirmed to Newsmax in an e-mail that the National Day of Prayer task force will not participate in the National Day of Prayer event that the Pentagon will observe on May 6.
In an e-mail Monday to Newsmax, Wright stated: "While we appreciate [Franklin Graham's] worldwide outreach, and his willingness to speak at this Pentagon multi-faith event, his presence would be inappropriate."
Wright did not elaborate on why a speech by Graham, whose Samaritan's Purse organization has come to the aid of millions of needy people and children around the globe, would be "inappropriate."
Activists have objected bitterly to Graham's post-9/11 remarks that Islamic teachings had made Islam "a very evil and wicked religion."
Graham, who has overseen several initiatives to help people in Muslim countries, told Fox News last week that he loves the people of Islam. But he added, "I do not agree with their religion at all. And if you look at what the religion does just to women, women alone, it is just horrid. And so yes, I speak out for women. I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam and I want them to know that they can be free."
Wright said the Pentagon event "will continue as scheduled under the administration of the office of the Pentagon Chaplain." Asked which chaplains, representing which faith traditions, will be involved in the upcoming event, Wright replied: "The agenda has not been finalized."
Last week, Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, a Christian organization, reacted sharply to the Pentagon's decision.
"This decision is further evidence that the leadership of our nation's military has been impaired by the politically correct culture being advanced by this administration," Perkins said. "Under this Administration's watch we are seeing the First Amendment, designed to protect the religious exercise of Americans, retooled into a sword to sever America's ties with orthodox Christianity.
"For those Christian leaders who have avoided the controversy of political issues, saying they just wanted to preach the gospel — this should be a wake-up call!" he stated.
Also this year, an invitation was revoked for Perkins to speak at a prayer lunch at Andrews Air Force Base revoked, after he criticized President Obama's call to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military.
Perkins, a veteran himself, told CBN: "I never thought when I put on the uniform as a United States Marine, served six years serving this country, never gave thought to the fact that one day I would be denied the right to speak."
On Sunday, President Obama visited Billy Graham's residence in Montreat, N.C., becoming the latest in a continuous line of U.S. presidents to visit with Billy Graham, dating back to President Dwight Eisenhower. Graham is 91.
Franklin Graham said that during Sunday's visit, he spoke briefly with Obama about the Pentagon's decision to spurn the task force, which has participated in the Pentagon event for several years.
Graham says he told the president that anti-Christian activists are trying to remove all traces of religion from the U.S. military.
"I wanted to make him aware of that. He said he would look into it," Graham said, according to The Associated Press.
The mission of the task force, which is privately funded, is to encourage participation in the national prayer day.
"The military never extended the invitation to me," Franklin Graham explained Friday on CBN. "I got a phone call from the Pentagon, from the head chaplain, and he asked if I would rescind this invitation. I said, 'Sir, I never got the invitation.' The invitation is actually to the National Day of Prayer (task force). It wasn't give to me. I said, 'You'll have to go to the National Day of Prayer. I'm their honorary chairman, but the invitation didn't come to me directly.' So they disinvited, is my understanding, the National Day of Prayer."
Although Graham and the National Day of Prayer task force will be excluded from the Pentagon event, Graham still will be the keynote speaker at the other major National Day of Prayer observance May 6 in the Nation's Capital, at the Cannon House Office Building. The National Day of Prayer, which is open to all faiths, was created with a joint congressional resolution in 1952 and takes place on the first Thursday every May. President Harry Truman signed it into law.
Franklin Graham, who has preached at the Pentagon on several occasions, most recently in 2003, and who regularly visits soldiers at U.S. military bases across the nation, told CBN: "It's unfortunate that the military felt they needed to bow to the complaints of just a couple of people, when about 89 percent of the American people are Christians… they identify with the Christian faith. It doesn't mean they are living with Christ, but 89 percent identify with the Christian faith."
Graham also said the Pentagon decision was an ominous sign for the future of religious freedom in America.
"I think no question … religious freedom is under attack," he said. "There has been an erosion now for many years, but we have seen it really accelerate in the last 10 years.
"This political correctness that has crept in, that if we stand for what we believe in, all the sudden we are not tolerant. They almost make it look like we are participating in hate speech, when we say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there's no way to God except through Christ and Christ alone. They are interpreting that now as being hostile and hate speech."
This month, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin ruled that holding a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, maintaining it violates the First Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of a religion by the federal government. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2008 by a group of atheists and agnostics.
The Justice Department has announced it will appeal Crabb's ruling. Also, the White House has stated that President Obama will sign a proclamation recognizing the event.
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