ABC's Luis Martinez reports: The evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham prayed on a sidewalk outside the Pentagon early this morning, fulfilling a commitment to do so after he was disinvited two weeks ago from speaking at the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer event.
He had been disinvited after criticism about past controversial comments he had made about Islam led the Army to decide that he would not be an appropriate speaker for the Pentagon event.
The son of the Rev. Billy Graham, his wife and a few friends gathered in a prayer circle on a sidewalk next to one of the Pentagon’s huge parking lots.
After praying for five minutes, Graham walked to the nearby 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, where he met with reporters and was unapologetic about his past comments.
Graham said he had prayed for the men and women of the armed forces and had asked God to protect them and guide them to victory over our enemies. Graham’s son is an Army officer currently serving in Afghanistan.
The evangelist reiterated the differences between his Christian faith and other religions and disagreed with the characterization that his past words were bigoted. Graham said he did not have a campaign against people of other faiths or preach against other religions. However, he restated his belief that not all religions are equal and that as a Christian he believes the only way to God is through faith in Jesus Christ.
Asked if he understood why members of other faiths might be offended by his past comments, he said he didn’t think they would be given that “they don’t agree with me. Muslims don’t believe that we worship the same God as the Christians and the Jews. They don’t believe that. We simply disagree.“ He added, “I’m happy for the Muslims that celebrate Ramadan here. I’m happy for them to celebrate prayer services here, but as a Christian, why can’t I have same right? I do not believe all religions lead to God. I believe, for me, that it’s the Christian faith. I believe, for me, it is through Christ and him alone. I understand that Jews may disagree with me, that Muslims may disagree with me, Hindus may disagree, and that’s fine.“
Asked about whether he still thinks Islam is evil, Graham said, “I believe the way they treat women is evil. Yes I do.” Asked if he understands why his comments might be offensive to Muslims, he replied, “I’m sure, but I find what they teach, what they preach and what’s on the internet I find that to be offensive too.” Were his concerns directed at Islam as a whole or to extreme fundamentalists, “I speak as to what they teach and the way they treat women as a whole. I find that horrid the way women are treated in this faith.“
Graham said he had been saddened to hear that he had been disinvited from the Pentagon event because he had spoken there in the past.
When asked if he felt that his exclusion was unfair to him or Christianity, he said, “I believe that we have seen that it looks like Islam has gotten a pass and they’re able to have their services, but just because I disagree, I’m excluded. And so I think there are many Christians in America today who feel that we are losing our freedoms while people of other faiths are gaining their freedom, so it’s a perception. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s still a perception.”
- Luis Martinez