By Roland S. Martin
One month after demanding that Franklin Graham apologize for continuing to question the faith of President Barack Obama, a group of nearly two dozens Black pastors met with him for two hours Tuesday to discuss that and other faith-based issues.
In what was described as an honest, forthright, and at times contentious two-hour meeting in Charlotte, N.C., Graham and the pastors discussed his comments about Obama, radical Islam, violence in the Sudan, as well as the controversy surrounding the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teen in Florida.
In the past couple of years, Graham, the son of the legendary Billy Graham, has made a number of comments about the president’s faith that has been deemed offensive to his supporters. It was comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that angered the group of Black pastors, leading Graham to issue an apology on February 28, and agreeing to a meeting.
One pastor described Graham as “shaken a bit” by the heat he has taken for the comments.
The group of Black clergy at Tuesday’s sitdown discussion included men and women pastors of various denominations, mostly members of the NAACP’s faith-based caucus. On the other side was Graham, one of his PR specialists, and attorney.
“The outcome was he agreed to have an ongoing relationship and input with us on social and political issues,” one of the pastors said, agreeing to speak on the condition of anonymity until the joint statement is released later today.
One of the issues Graham was pressed on was the Trayvon Martin case, which has led to a national outcry and calls for his killer, George Zimmerman, to be arrested and prosecuted.
Another pastor in the meeting said Graham wasn’t aware of the details surrounding the case, and was brought up to speed. One of the pastors in the meeting, the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore, will lead a national march in Sanford, Fla., on Monday, and invited Graham to march with him and others in calling for immediate action.
“It was a good, initial meeting,” another pastor said. “It wasn’t a slam dunk. It was layup.”
Graham and the contingent of Black pastors agreed to reconvene in 90 days either at the NAACP’s national headquarters in Baltimore, or at the Boone, North Carolina headquarters of Graham’s international ministry, Samaritan’s Purse.