The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, demanding, for the reasons explained in the letter, that Franklin Graham be uninvited as the keynote speaker for the Pentagon's upcoming National Day of Prayer event. The request for MRFF's assistance from a group of Muslim military personnel and DoD employees at the Pentagon, which is enclosed with the letter to Secretary Gates, follows.
April 19, 2010
Dear Secretary Gates,
On behalf of a courageous community of United States military personnel and DoD employees of the Muslim faith at the Pentagon who have contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for help regarding the choice of Franklin Graham as the speaker for the Pentagon's May 6, 2010 National Day of Prayer event, MRFF hereby demands, for the reasons explained below, that the Pentagon Chaplains Office immediately rescind its invitation to Mr. Graham and choose a more appropriate and inclusive speaker for this high profile event. (See attached request for MRFF assistance.)
You may recall the outrage of the Muslim community, as well as members of other religious faiths, when Mr. Graham was invited to speak at the Pentagon in 2003 -- outrage prompted particularly by Mr. Graham's statements following the attacks of 9/11 in which he called the whole of the religion of Islam "evil" and "wicked." Mr. Graham has never retracted or apologized for these statements, and, in fact, was still defending them as recently as December 2009 in an appearance on CNN.
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.
There is, of course, no issue with the Pentagon Chaplains Office hosting an NDP event. The outrageous issue, in the instant matter, is the Pentagon's hosting of an event affiliated with the NDPTF, a private organization headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson. The NDPTF has become the de facto "official" sponsor of the National Day of Prayer, and, by its comprehensively exclusive restrictions and blatantly sectarian requirements, has made all NDPTF affiliated events exclusively fundamentalist Christian in scope, message, and nature.
To begin with, all NDPTF volunteers must subscribe to the following "Statement of Belief," a statement which universally excludes not only all non-Christians and non-religious, but, in point of fact, even many Christians themselves.
"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."
But even more incontrovertibly, NDPTF event coordinators must agree, by subscribing to the following statement, to restrict any participation beyond simply attending an event to Christians and only Christians.
"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 also 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 to prohibit the participation of non-Christians, the Pentagon Chaplains Office absolutely cannot endorse or provide a selective benefit to this non-federal entity by shamefully, disgracefully, and unconstitutionally affiliating the Pentagon NDP event with it.
Given the heinously hurtful, bigoted, and very public continual statements of Mr. Graham against the entirety of the religion of Islam, and his position as honorary chairman of the NDPTF, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation hereby demands that the Pentagon Chaplains Office immediately rescind its invitation to Mr. Graham, permanently distance itself from the NDPTF, and simply do the right thing; to wit, make the Pentagon NDP event inclusive of all honorable and noble United States military personnel and DoD employees, regardless of religious beliefs, who wish to participate.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq.
Founder & President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
President Barack Obama
John M. McHugh - Secretary of the Army
Ray Mabus - Secretary of the Navy
Michael B. Donley - Secretary of the Air Force
Admiral Michael Mullen - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General James E. Cartwright - Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General George W. Casey, Jr. - Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Admiral Gary Roughead - Chief of Naval Operations
General Norton A. Schwartz - Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
General James T. Conway - Commandant of the Marine Corps
Request for MRFF's assistance from Muslim military personnel and DoD employees at the Pentagon:
Dear Mr. Weinstein,
We request the assistance of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation with a matter that concerns all Americans. As Muslim members of the U.S. military and the Pentagon worship community, we are dumbfounded that the Pentagon Chaplain's Office has invited Mr. Franklin Graham to be the guest speaker at the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon on May 6, 2010.
Seven years ago, the Pentagon Chaplain's Office invited Mr. Graham to speak at the Pentagon, dismissing the concerns of the Pentagon Muslim worship community, as well as those of the Muslim community at large. At that time, the Pentagon chaplain claimed a lack of knowledge of Mr. Graham's opinions on Islam and Muslims. The current Pentagon chaplain made the same claim and dismissed our concerns by stating that Mr. Graham's comments are old news anyway.
That anyone serving in the Pentagon now could claim a lack of knowledge of Mr. Graham's very public, negative comments about Islam and Muslims stretches the limits of credulity. Mr. Graham never retracted his previous bigoted statements ("We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it [Islam] is a very evil and wicked religion."). And, as recently as December 2009, in a CNN interview with Campbell Brown, Mr. Graham reiterated his negative views of Islam and Muslims by stating, "But there are millions of wonderful Muslim people. And I love them. I have friends that are Muslims and I work in those countries. But I don't agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion." We have attached an excerpt of the interview transcript, as well as a link of the video, for your information because it contains even more troubling statements by Graham.
The bigoted viewpoints repeatedly expressed by Mr. Graham, without retraction or apology, contradict not only Department of Defense policy but also our overall national policy, as articulated by President Obama. Once again, we hope and pray that the Pentagon Chaplain's Office will reconsider its invitation to Mr. Graham and instead invite more inclusive and honorable clergy persons to speak at the Pentagon.
Members of the Pentagon Muslim Community
Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for Franklin Graham, has confirmed to the Associated Press that Graham has not changed his views on Islam.