Evangelicals and Muslims together denounce Franklin Graham’s anti-Muslim remarks

WASHINGTON (RNS) An evangelical pastor from Texas joined American Muslim leaders Thursday (July 23) in denouncing recent anti-Muslim comments by evangelist Franklin Graham as they announced upcoming efforts to build bridges between their religious communities.

Pastor Bob Roberts Jr. speaks alongside Imam Mohamed Magid on Capitol Hill on Thursday (July 23, 2015) in response to Franklin Graham’s recent anti-Muslim remarks. Religion News Service photo by Sara Weissman
Pastor Bob Roberts Jr. speaks alongside Imam Mohamed Magid on Capitol Hill on Thursday (July 23, 2015) in response to Franklin Graham’s recent anti-Muslim remarks. Religion News Service photo by Sara Weissman

In response to the killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., last week, Graham, son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook that the U.S. should bar Muslims from immigrating.

Billy Graham’s son: Obama, on gay marriage, has shaken fist at God

Franklin Graham — son and legatee of Billy Graham, the traditional spiritual advisor to the nation’s presidents — is lashing out at President Obama for his support of gay marriage, saying that Obama has “shaken his fist” at God, and lamenting “a sad day for America.”

Graham’s three-paragraph statement, released on the association’s website, noted that voters in his home state of North Carolina had approved a constitutional amendment that allows only heterosexual marriage. Overall, 38 states have adopted some kind of prohibition on gay marriage, and the president said that the states should be able to determine whether to accept homosexual unions.

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama had said that he opposed gay marriage, but more recently said that his position was evolving.

“In changing his position from that of “Senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage,” Graham said. “It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.

“The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media,” Graham continued. “The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. God help us.”

Graham, 59, has insinuated previously that he’s not a big fan of the president. On Feb. 21, on MSNBC’s  “Morning Joe” show, he was asked whether Obama was a Christian.

“I think you have to ask President Obama,” he said. Because Obama’s father was a Muslim, Graham added, “under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim.”

Elsewhere, Graham has called Islam “wicked and evil.”

Leaps of Faith

Claims that Obama concealed nonnative birth or faith in Islam failed to gain mainstream traction, but conservatives like Sean Hannity were more successful in labeling Obama as covertly “anti-American” based on his association with the incendiary pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. By this logic, Obama was a paragon of Christian piety. He “savored” every word on Sunday mornings and would surely govern by these traitorous principles: his beliefs were dangerous because, well, he really believed them.

But Obama’s opponents have a new twist on this old allegation. They find evidence for his unbelief not by exposing his biblical illiteracy or shoddy church attendance, but in his failure to support “religious freedom.”

The charge that the president is a faker on religious freedom is the most recent iteration of the ongoing attack on his legitimacy: it is the new “birther” movement. It’s also a decades-old rhetorical tool of the culture wars intended to depict the entire left as frauds who supposedly stand for a tolerant open society, but who are in fact disciples of a secular pseudo-religion intent on quashing Christian influence in America.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who has always been more provocative than his prudent father Billy, told MSNBC last week that the president lacks sufficient outrage over the plight of persecuted Christians. “Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama,” Graham said, adding that the Muslim world sees Obama as “a son of Islam” who will not challenge religious oppression. “The Muslims of the world — he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries – that’s what bothers me.” (Graham offered a half-apology on Tuesday, saying he regretted any comments that “cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president.”)

Saudi Arabia to present new image at Madrid forum

In a first for Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, the king will convene a conference in Madrid as part of a Saudi outreach to address interfaith tensions, a restoration of respect for religious values, and improving the image of Islam. The conference will span a 3-day meeting beginning on July 16th, which will include Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives from Eastern religions. 200 invitees to the event include vocal critics of Islam, including the controversial US reverent Franklin Graham. Former vice president Al Gore and the Archbishop of Canterbury were also invited, but declined due to prior engagements. Spain was chosen for the site of the conference, due to the country’s rich history of religious diversity, and Islamic history.