Graham, the son of famed minister Billy Graham, was 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 in a statement released Thursday, Graham said the Army had changed its mind.
"I regret that the Army felt it was necessary to rescind their invitation to the National Day of Prayer Task Force to participate in the Pentagon's special prayer service," Graham said. "I want to express my strong support for the United States military and all our troops. I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country."
Collins said Dobson's group, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, has withdrawn its sponsorship of the event over the flap. Graham is the group's honorary chairman.
The chaplain's office will run the event. No new speaker has been lined up, Collins said.
"Everyone's heart was in the right place trying to set up this event," said Collins, who said organizers in the Pentagon were looking forward to hosting the "world-class Christian leader" until his comments made his appearance "problematic."
"This is as bright a day for the U.S. Constitution and freedoms in this country as it is a dark day for the Islamic extremists we're fighting because their propaganda tool has been taken away," Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told AOL News in reaction to the Pentagon's decision.
Weinstein added that he hoped the Pentagon would not attempt "a bait and switch" in which another "Islamaphobe" would simply be substituted for Graham. He said lawyers for his group would seek a restraining order in federal court to cancel the event if that happens but otherwise would not object, even though he agrees with a decision last week by a federal judge in Wisconsin who ruled the U.S. law authorizing a National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
The Obama administration Thursday said the Justice Department would appeal the Wisconsin decision. President Harry Truman declared a National Day of Prayer 59 years ago, and it has been a staple in Washington ever since.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month, Weinstein said his group had been contacted by Muslims at the Pentagon who were offended by Graham's planned appearance. He cited statements after the 9/11 attacks in which the minister called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion."
Graham later wrote 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."
But in 2009 Graham said on CNN, "True Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries. ... I don't agree with the teachings of Islam, and I find it to be a very violent religion."
And on Thursday, Graham stuck to his remarks on Fox News that Muslims are "enslaved" by their religion.
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations applauded the Pentagon decision.
"Obviously, Pentagon officials made the right move in disinviting a person who spreads hatred against a particular faith, a faith that is practiced by tens of millions of people that military personnel are interacting with on a daily basis," he said.