[UPDATE] 2/28 4:17 p.m.
Franklin Graham responded on Tuesday to criticism from faith leaders in the NAACP who accused the evangelist of questioning President Obama's Christianity.
"I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he stated. "The president has said he is a Christian and I accept that (and have said so publicly on many occasions). 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."
Graham went further to say he cannot and will not vote for Obama because of his positions on abortion and traditional marriage, which he found to be in "direct conflict with God's standards as set forth in Scripture." He also added that he would vote for any candidate, whether a Democrat or a Mormon, who supports traditional marriage.
[This is a breaking news update. Check CP's earlier story below.]
A coalition of black ministers and the NAACP have blasted evangelist Franklin Graham for his comments that they felt called into question President Obama's Christian faith. The NAACP issued an open letter on Tuesday denouncing Graham's comments.
"As Christian denominational leaders, pastors, and, most importantly, followers of Jesus Christ; we are greatly troubled by recent attempts by some religious leaders to use faith as a political weapon," the letter reads. "We were disturbed and disappointed by statements made by Rev. Franklin Graham during an interview on MSNBC that questioned whether President Obama is a Christian."
Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and the CEO of Samaritans Purse, was appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," last Tuesday when he was asked if he believed President Obama is a Christian.
"I think you have to ask President Obama. You can ask me do I believe if you're a Christian but I think the best thing for a person is to ask you directly," Graham replied. "He's come out saying he's a Christian so I think the question is what is a Christian?"
"So you don't take him at his word that he's a Christian?" asked the host.
"No, of course I do. You have to ask every person," continued Graham. "A Christian is a person that believes that Jesus Christ is God's son who died on a cross for our sins who God raise to life and that if we put faith and trust in Him that God will forgive us of your sins … you cannot be born a Christian, you have to be converted, and that is by putting your faith and trust in Christ."
Graham also relayed a story that when he asked Obama in 2008 if he was a Christian, and how he came to faith in Christ he said when he was working as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, people asked him where he attended church and when Obama replied that he didn't attend church, they said he must join one of their local churches. Obama said he then joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright's congregation.
The entire interview can be viewed here.
After repeated questions calling on Graham to simply admit Obama is a Christian, Graham reiterated that is what he had been, but also offered further comments on Obama's background.
When Graham was asked if he believed Obama is a Muslim, Graham responded by saying "No," but talked about the Obama administration giving Muslim countries a "free pass" many times.
"Islam sees him as a son of Islam because his father was a Muslim, his grandfather was a Muslim," continued Graham. "All I know is under Obama, President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than theChristians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries."
In an earlier interview broadcast before Graham was questioned, GOP candidate Rick Santorum was also questioned about calling Obama's Christian faith into question. Like Graham, Santorum repeatedly said he took the president at his word if he says he's a Christian.
However, the NAACP and the ministers who signed the open letter also raised the issue of race relations.
"We are also concerned that Rev. Graham's comments can be used to encourage racism," they stated in their letter. "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 Christian Post attempted to contact Graham but could not reach him prior to publication.