The 2014 National Rifle Association annual meeting's prayer breakfast will be keynoted by a reverend who claimed that the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre "is what happens when a society turns its back on God" by separating religion from public education or government.
According to the NRA, Dr. Franklin Graham will lead an April 27 prayer breakfast during the NRA's 2014 annual meetings and exhibits. Graham, who is the son of evangelist Billy Graham, is described by the NRA as "a world humanitarian and spiritual voice for our country."
Six days after a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch flagged a radio interview where Graham discussed the shooting, saying, "we've taken God our of our school, we've taken him out of our government and now we seem shocked at all of these things. Why are we shocked? We shouldn't be shocked. This is what happens when a society turns its back on God":
Following the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and 13 wounded, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Graham criticized a nationally televised memorial service for the victims because it included a Native American prayer. In The Washington Times, Graham wrote that the prayer "can do nothing to comfort" the victims of the shooting and added, "For the sake of these innocent people and for Americans everywhere, I wish someone could have prayed to the One who created all of us, Almighty God."
Graham also has a history of making bigoted statements about gay people. During a recent interview, Graham claimed that gays "recruit" children for "exploitation" and defended Russia's anti-gay crackdown:
GRAHAM: Gays and lesbians cannot have children. Biologically it's impossible.
TIM FUNK, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Right. They can adopt, but -
GRAHAM: Yeah, they can recruit.
GRAHAM: Yeah, sure.
FUNK: What is the difference between recruit and adopt, do you think?
GRAHAM: Well I think you can adopt a child into a marriage, but you can also recruit children into your cause. So I believe in protecting children, okay, from exploitation, all exploitations. So that's all that is about. I agreed with Putin, I think protecting his nation's children I think was probably a pretty smart thing to do.
A Huffington Post write-up described the interview as "one of the most homophobic things we've ever seen."
Right Wing Watch, which has an extensive archive of Graham's commentary, also recently flagged him claiming during a radio appearance that President Obama's advisors "are anti-Christ in what they say and what they do."
The NRA's annual meeting will be held April 25 - 27 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the 2013 NRA annual meeting, controversy erupted after "Stand and Fight" rally keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted Jewish then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from civil rights group the Anti-Defamation League. During the 2012 annual meeting, the prayer breakfast was keynoted by retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who was forced to withdraw from a prior speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point in light of his long record of hateful comments about Muslims and Islam.