- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) The new head of the Southern Baptist Convention has defended and endorsed comments highly critical of Islam by one of the convention's past presidents.
The Rev. Jack Graham, elected the convention's president on Tuesday, said the Rev. Jerry Vines' comments about Islam were "accurate."
"Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives and his last one was a 9-year-old girl. And I will tell you, Allah is not Jehovah either. Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that'll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people," Mr. Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., said at a pastors' conference here on Monday.
Mr. Graham, of Plano, Texas, said that Mr. Vines' statement "is an accurate statement," and that he would not condemn his colleague.
"I will not respond to Dr. Vines' statement, other than to say that anyone who follows any path, who wants to go to heaven, should look carefully at who they're following and what they believe," he said.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the comments were outrageous.
"It's really unfortunate that a top leader in a mainstream Christian church would use such hate-filled and bigoted language in describing the faith of one-fifth of the world's population," Mr. Hooper said. "This is the level of bigotry that requires a clear statement from the top leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention."
William Merrell, a spokesman for the SBC Executive Committee, said the comments were made outside the actual meeting, and that it was not the SBC's place to comment.
Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America and a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, called the comments "medieval." She said statements like this from such high-placed religious leaders can lead to violence against Muslims.
Mr. Vines, a former convention president, said on Monday that many of this country's problems can be blamed on the moral relativism championed by proponents of religious pluralism.
Pluralists "would have us to believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity, but I'm here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Islam is not just as good as Christianity," he said.
Meanwhile, as Roman Catholic bishops gathered yesterday to take up the issue of child-molesting priests, a nonbinding resolution adopted by 9,500 delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting called on member churches to address sex offenses by ministers, counselors, chaplains, missionaries and others within their congregations.
Convention members also adopted, without debate, resolutions praying for peace in the Middle East, supporting Israel and the war on terrorism, and denouncing a new gender-neutral translation of the Bible.
Because of the traditional autonomy of the Southern Baptists' local churches, the resolutions are not binding on the denomination's 16 million members.

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