Graham Apologizes, Faith Council ‘Goes Dark’
‘I Regret Casting Doubt’
After a group of black Christian leaders published an NAACP-backed open letter to the Rev. Franklin Graham, the evangelist apologized for questioning President Obama’s faith during a recent appearance on MSNBC, Religion News Service reported yesterday.
“I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama,” Graham is quoted as saying. “I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.”
In the 15-minute panel discussion on the “Morning Joe” show, Graham, who is president of the Samaratin’s Purse relief organization and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, declined to affirm the president’s Christian faith, but heartily affirmed that of Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
“We can disagree about what it means to be a Christian engaged in politics, but Christians should not bear false witness,” the open letter to Graham said. “We are also concerned that Rev. Graham’s comments can be used to encourage racism. We urge him to be mindful of the unprecedented verbal attacks on President Obama based on his race and be careful not to allow his own voice to be used to help drive such hateful words.”
The letter also warned that “statements like Rev. Graham’s have potentially dangerous consequences domestically and internationally.” Signatories included leaders from predominantly African American denominations and members of the NAACP Religious Affairs Committee.
President’s Faith Council ‘Has Gone Dark’
In related news, less than a week after members of the president’s first Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships participated in a press call that was designed to defend the president’s faith, Politico reported that “three years into his presidency, Obama’s marquee council of faith advisers has gone dark.”
“The president’s first Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships delivered a 163-page report in March 2010 and then disbanded. The second council has waited more than a year for a full slate of appointees and has yet to meet. And the hottest issue — whether religious groups that receive public money can discriminate in hiring — remains unresolved more than three years after Obama promised to address it,” the article said.
On last week’s press call, the Rev. Joel Hunter and Melissa Rogers, both of whom served on the president’s first advisory council, conceded to UrbanFaith that the Obama administration had “stumbled” in its recent communications with religious people and groups, particularly in regard to a controversial contraception mandate that was included in the Affordable Care Act. No mention was made on that call about delays in assembling his second advisory council.
“President Obama continues to expand and strengthen faith-based initiatives and the faith-based advisory council is an important part of that effort,” Joshua DuBois, director of the faith-based office, said in a written statement to Politico. “Advising the president on our ongoing partnership with faith-based groups and other nonprofits around the country is critical and we are committed to ensuring they have as much impact as possible. It is a big country with significant religious diversity, and we are very thoughtful about our approach.”
What do you think?
Are these two leaders, President Obama and the Rev. Franklin Graham stumbling badly or is the press amplifying minor missteps?