- The Washington Times - Friday, May 7, 2010

Evangelist Franklin Graham was the undisputed center of attention Thursday during National Day of Prayer observances in the nation’s capital, putting in an early morning appearance outside the Pentagon, speaking to 350 people on Capitol Hill and then meeting the media at a press conference afterward.

Despite the controversy that attended his participation, Mr. Graham’s message was unchanging and unapologetic - that Islam is inferior to Christianity.

“I don’t believe Muhammad can lead anyone to God, but salvation is through Christ alone,” he told reporters outside the Cannon House Office Building caucus room. “I don’t accept this notion that all roads lead to God.”

He added, “What Islam does to women is wicked and evil,” he added. “It’s horrid, horrid. I’ll stand up for women’s rights every day of the week.”

The Pentagon last month rescinded an invitation to Mr. Graham, eldest son of evangelist Billy Graham, to its annual National Day of Prayer event after Muslim members of the military complained about his 2001 remarks in the Wall Street Journal characterizing Islam as a “very evil and wicked religion.”

“Those were statements nine years ago,” Mr. Graham told reporters Thursday. “To be prevented from speaking at a Christian gathering is a shame.”

The prayer day events went forward across the city despite a Wisconsin judge’s ruling last month that the event was an unconstitutional mix of church and state. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb has delayed implementing her ruling while Obama administration lawyers prepare an appeal.

Mr. Obama signed the annual proclamation last week noting the National Day of Prayer, but for the second year in a row, the president took part in no public events Thursday to mark the day. During the Bush administration, National Day of Prayer organizers held an early morning prayer service at the White House attended by the president.

The lawsuit challenging the day was brought by Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that opposes religious expression in public places.

Despite the cancelled invitation, Mr. Graham appeared at the Pentagon early Thursday. He and a handful of supporters and relatives including his wife, Jane, gathered on a sidewalk to pray. Then he held an impromptu press conference.

When asked how he felt about being cut from the Pentagon guest list, he replied, “It looks like Islam has gotten a pass. They are able to have their services, but just because I disagree … I’m excluded,” the Associated Press reported.

At the Capitol Hill event, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, congratulated Mr. Graham for giving “a loving response to his critics.”

“We have a lot of opposition,” Mr. Dobson continued, “but we have a God in heaven who hears us every time we open our mouths.”

After Mr. Graham took the podium, he greeted members of other faiths present by saying, “I love you but please allow me to speak today as a minister of the Gospel. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I only know how to pray and preach as the Bible instructs me.”

• Julia Duin can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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