Graham, the son of famed minister Billy Graham, is scheduled to speak May 6 at a National Day of Prayer event organized by a Colorado group chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. But Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. were huddling at the Pentagon on Wednesday afternoon deciding whether to rescind the invitation.
"The issue is not the event itself," Army Col. Tom Collins told AOL News. "The issue is Franklin Graham being the speaker this year and his past comments on Islam."
But in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it had been contacted by Muslims at the Pentagon who are offended by Graham's appearance. It cited his statements after the 9/11 attacks in which he called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion." The group noted that Graham has never retracted or apologized.
Graham did write an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal saying he did not believe Muslims were evil because of their faith, but "as a minister ... I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."
Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, told AOL News that if the Pentagon doesn't rescind Graham's invitation, his group will go to federal court seeking a restraining order to cancel the event. He said he would base the lawsuit on a decision last week by a federal judge in Wisconsin who ruled the U.S. law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
Despite that ruling, President Barack Obama has said he still plans to recognize the day. President Harry Truman declared a National Day of Prayer 59 years ago, and it has been a staple in Washington ever since.
Weinstein said he will stay out of court and not try to stop the event if the Pentagon replaces Graham with a more inclusive speaker. "There must be a large list of people who can represent the totality of Americans without offending and denigrating" Muslims, especially at a time when the United States is trying to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Iraq. "It's like bringing in Rev. Louis Farrakhan to speak at a Holocaust memorial event."
The dust-up over Graham is just the latest controversy involving the alleged establishment of Christianity in the military and comes after the discovery of "Jesus guns," rifle scopes sent to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, a Muslim country, that were inscribed with secret biblical references.