While all the reports about Franklin Graham being cut from the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer event focused exclusively on Graham's anti-Muslim statements as the reason his appearance was cancelled, there is actually a second and equally important reason that he should never have been invited in the first place. Even if Graham had never uttered a single disparaging word against the religion of Islam, his invitation would still have been in violation of several Department of Defense regulations. As explained in the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's (MRFF) letter to the Secretary of Defense demanding that Graham be disinvited, the affiliation of the Pentagon's NDP event with Shirley Dobson's National Day of Prayer Task Force was in violation of the regulations that strictly prohibit the U.S. military from endorsing or offering preferential treatment to a private organization (or "non-federal entity") -- regulations that apply across the board to both religious and non-religious organizations, as well as to commercial entities.
As stated in MRFF's letter:
MRFF also strongly objects in the most fervent magnitude to the Constitutionally noxious affiliation of the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer event with the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF). This illegal affiliation violates the Joint Ethics Regulation (DoD 5500.7-R) regarding the strictly prohibited endorsement of a non-federal entity (Section 3-209), and DoD Instruction 5410.19, which, likewise, prohibits the providing of a selective benefit or preferential treatment to any organization (Sections 6.7.1 and 6.7.2).
By making it a regular practice to have the NDPTF's honorary chairman, who this year is Franklin Graham, as the designated keynote speaker for the Pentagon's event, and by using the promotional materials supplied by the NDPTF, the Pentagon Chaplains Office has clearly turned the Pentagon's event into an official NDPTF event. No other interpretation is reasonable, rational, or possible.
MRFF was already working on addressing another National Day of Prayer issue when we were contacted by the members of the Muslim worship community at the Pentagon requesting our help regarding Franklin Graham. This other issue is the scheduled participation of military personnel (i.e., military color guards and military bands) in other official NDPTF events across the country. This participation is not only in violation of the same military regulations cited above regarding non-federal entities, but DoD and individual service branch regulations on uniform wear.
And, of course, there's also that pesky constitutional issue of the military's endorsement of a particular religion by participating in NDPTF events. The NDPTF's message is very clear -- no non-Christians need apply.
To begin with, all NDPTF volunteers must subscribe to the following "Statement of Belief," a statement that excludes all non-Christians and non-religious, and even many Christians.
"I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name."
NDPTF event coordinators must also agree, by subscribing to the following statement, to restrict any participation beyond simply attending an event to Christians only: "I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend."
The NDPTF actually has an "Official Policy Statement on Participation of 'Non-Judeo-Christian' groups in the National Day of Prayer," which states:
"The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs."
While the NDPTF, of course, has every right, as a private organization, to organize exclusively Christian events and prohibit the participation of non-Christians, the U.S. military cannot endorse these events by its participation in them. Therefore, MRFF will be sending a letter to the Secretary of Defense officially demanding that military participation in any NDPTF event be prohibited.
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