Evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham issued his toughest remarks yet Monday on the administration's role in revoking his invitation to speak at the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer event, charging that President Obama is "giving Islam a pass" rather than speaking openly about the "horrific" treatment women and minorities receive in many Muslim countries.
In an exclusive telephone interview with Newsmax.TV, Graham called revoking his invitation to the prayer service "a slap at all evangelical Christians."
And he clearly placed the blame on the Obama administration, telling Newsmax that the Pentagon would never revoke such an invitation without first consulting with the White House.
"I'm being restricted from my religious rights, and from what I believe," Graham warned, as he complained of a growing “secularization” in the government.
He also warned Christian of “coming” persecution for believing in Jesus Christ.
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‘Very Much Opposed to What We Stand For’
On April 22, the Pentagon announced that it would be "inappropriate" to have Graham speak at the May 6 event. After 9-11, Graham said Islamic teachings had made that faith "a very evil and wicked religion."
He says that view is based on decades of travel and ministry to the Middle East where he has seen evidence of religious violence, including the mistreatment of women.
Graham said the Pentagon snub matter came up during last week's visit by President Obama with Franklin and his world-renowned father, Rev. Billy Graham, at the elder Graham’s home in North Carolina.
"He said he didn't know anything about it until two days prior to that meeting," Franklin Graham tells Newsmax. "And I would certainly believe him. I don't think that he would say something that wasn't true, so I believe what he said.
"But I certainly believe that it was people in his administration that said no," Graham continued. "I don't think the Pentagon would say no on an invitation like this without consulting the White House."
The Pentagon's invitation was actually to the National Day of Prayer task force led by Shirley Dobson, wife of respected Christian leader James Dobson. Shirley Dobson castigated the Pentagon's decision, saying it suffers from rampant "political correctness."
Graham, as the task force's honorary chairman, had been scheduled to speak at the event. After the invitation was rescinded, he warned that anti-Christian activists are trying to remove all traces of religion from the U.S. military.
In his interview with Newsmax.TV, Graham said the invitation controversy is "absolutely" part of a pattern of hostility toward Christianity in the federal government.
"And I don't know if it's exactly from President Obama," Graham said in the interview. "But I'm certain that some of the men around him are very much opposed to what we stand for and what we believe."
The younger Graham tells Newsmax that he perceives an increasing secularization in government, a pattern that he says began long before Obama became president.
"This goes back into the Clinton years," he tells Newsmax. "This whole secularization has come in, creeping in, and it's getting more and more and more.
"And of course the Bush administration was very friendly toward evangelicals. And [Bush] certainly, I think if he were president … he would have overturned that [Pentagon] decision," Graham says. "And I am hoping that President Obama will do this as well."
Islam Is ‘Not the Faith of This Country’
Asked why President Obama has praised Islam on several occasions, even as his administration has taken actions seemingly hostile toward Christianity, Graham said: "I don't know.”
He continued: “It seems as though Muslims are getting a pass. And you look at the violence that they have portrayed against women. It's just horrific. If you just take women alone … And I just don't understand why the president would be giving Islam a pass.
"We certainly love the Muslim people," Graham went on to say. "But that is not the faith of this country. And that is not the religion that built this nation. The people of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith are the ones who built America, and it is not Islam."
Regarding the recent case of a British preacher recently arrested for publicly espousing the biblical view that homosexuality is a sin, Graham was asked if that level of secular repression could be enacted in the United States.
"Oh, no question. It's coming," Graham says. "I think when you preach that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, I think we're going to see one day that people will say, 'This is hate speech, because you're being so narrow and you're excluding other people.' I believe that, I think we're going to see that come."
Revocation of the Graham speaking engagement is one of several administration moves that have alarmed some Christian leaders.
Earlier this year, an invitation to Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins to speak at a prayer lunch at Andrews Air Force Base was 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."
In March 2009, the Vatican condemned the president's decision to lift Bush administration restrictions on public funding for stem-cell research.
In April last year, the White House directed Georgetown University to cover up part of a crucifix, as well as the initials "IHS," a traditional symbol for Jesus Christ, that were visible above the podium where Obama was scheduled to speak.
The National Day of Prayer event is itself under attack. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin ruled that holding a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, maintaining it violates the First Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of a religion by the federal government.
That ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2008 by a group of atheists and agnostics. The Justice Department announced it will appeal Crabb's ruling.
The White House has announced President Obama will sign a proclamation recognizing this year's National Day of Prayer event, but he is not scheduled to attend Day of Prayer activities.
During President George W. Bush's administration, an annual Day of Prayer event was held in the White House.
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