By Eric Marrapodi CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) - The most famous and revered pastor in America, Billy Graham, is calling on voters to cast a ballot for their faith in full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other newspapers.
Graham's picture appears prominently in the ads, next to copy that reads, "As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last."
It continues, "I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God."
The ad hit the prominent papers Wednesday and Thursday, and could hit a dozen more newspapers, a week after the famed evangelist met with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Graham's Montreat, North Carolina, home and less than a month after his son Franklin Graham issued a full-throated endorsement of Romney in a USA Today opinion piece.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
Shortly after the meeting with the Grahams and Romney, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association scrubbed prior references to Mormonism as a cult from its website because, the association said, "we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."
Romney is a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Last week's meeting between Romney and Graham was their first.
After the 30-minute sit-down in Montreat, just outside Asheville, Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka told reporters that Billy Graham led a prayer for the Romneys, saying "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
The evangelist, who has been called America's pastor and has prayed with every American president since Harry Truman, said in a statement following the meeting that "it was a privilege to pray with Gov. Romney, for his family and our country."
Graham met with President Barack Obama in 2010 and with Sen. John McCain when he was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in 2008.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said the new ads were paid for by "friends who support the ministry" and that no general ministry funds were used.
"The ads intentionally do not mention any candidate, political party, or contest, urging instead for readers to cast votes for candidates, at all levels, based on their support for biblical values," the group said in a statement.
Billy Graham's long-time personal spokesman, A. Larry Ross, said of the ads, “[Graham] is challenging citizens, particularly the faith community, on how to vote, rather than for whom to vote.”
Ross said the 93-year-old is still active with the ministry, though not necessarily with the day-to-day operations. In this case, he said Graham was consulted about the ad and signed off on it.
"This ad is consistent with both the mission of the BGEA and Billy Graham's personal methodology to diligently and consistently remain politically neutral and nonpartisan throughout his public ministry," Ross said.
"Against the backdrop of moral decline and a cultural shift in our nation that reflects timely issues, Mr. Graham's quotation in the ad is an extension of his faithful preaching of a timeless message and strong stand on biblical values for more than six decades."
The campaign also includes bulletin inserts and posters of the ad for churches to download and distribute.
Well. I don't know what to say. I'm disappointed. I never agreed with all Mr. Graham. He teaches some things that are misunderstood to say the least. With all that in mind, I always respected his tenacious walk in his faith. I want to think that he is not within his faculties. Did a 94 year old man who is ailing really buy an ad? I don't know. I have to wonder.
Just disgusted at the thought that he was tricked into this. If he was not tricked and he did this with all his senses. I have lost all faith and ALL evangalist. They have made a living teaching people how to serve GOD contrary to most all Mitt believes and promotes.
God Bless America. I dread for all of us the outcome of this. I pray for Mr. Graham to live long and strong. I disagree with him falling to this after he has been such a mighty warrior for Christ.
The two teachings are not even close to the same. Graham knows this. Jesus didn't need an sequel to his word. Christ must be weeping today.
I still don't seem to understand what Billy Graham stands for; is it for the real Biblical stance or the Republican Party. How could he take sides and support a Mormon when he himself has, for years had declared Mormonism is a "cult"? How could he equate the Christian principles he has held all his life to the stance of the Mormon Bible? Please, could someone explain this to me?
Deva he is an old man, who has been hoodwinked by his radical son.
this is not about Billy Graham. This is all Franklin Graham's doing. Billy Graham never wanted to politicize his ministry. Franklin does.
Read his editorial. It is linked in the article. It is very clear.
Well, Billy Graham did the right thing. Romney has just got my vote! :)
Yes, I'm sure you were undecided before. ( eye roll )
Billy Graham has helped me see that light. I no longer feel that he has any more insight that the average conservative. Notice I didn't say republican, because the republican party has changed and will change again. Conservatives, however, are a different story. They are permanently entrenched in a political world that excludes anyone who looks, thinks or behaves in a way they find objectionable. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem. We all do that. On the other hand, conservatives find just about any difference objectionable, and that is the problem. I noticed, however, that Graham removed Mormons as a cult from his web site. Good for him. He probably should never have put them up there in the first place. In fact, one has to wonder whether he should identify cults at all if he's going to change his views based on the man running on the republican ticket. Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?
In my opening sentence, I said, "Billy Graham has helped me see that light. I no longer feel that he has any more insight that the average conservative". I need to make one minor correction: "Billy Graham has helped me see that light. I no longer feel that he has any more insight than the average conservative." Thank you.
How many years did Billy consider Mormonism a cult, and how many still consider it a cult? Why would he change his opinion, when he's getting ready to meet the good Lord? The Cult message, should still be there.
"I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles..."
Oh please, let this be his last election. The blending of church and state needs to stop.
Sho nuf massa... we gonna vote for that culta morma guy since we don't want no nihga in the white mans house.
This is Franklin Graham speaking, his dad is too feeble .
Hah! I wonder if George Carlin is rethinking some things now that he is on the "other" side...
What the fvck ? 8O
This guy's church should lose its tax exemption. Of course that would upset the liberals too much.
So it is obviously past time to tax the church and Graham's "ministries" sort of like the promise made by the Internation US Chamber of Horrs, uh, Commerce, that promised they would not use their foreign donations
Funny how they scrubbed their cult comments seeing that not only Myth Rmoney is a POLYTHEIST believing in multiple gods and that his god was once a man and made a god by the Kolob's god and tha Myth will become a god too with his own planet, Myth is also poly-positioned on every issue
Billy Graham is one of the last few truly anointed preachers alive. Pray for Godly leaders and the end of an Error...
the elected president of the Mormon church is "annointed" and speaks directly to and issues edicts directly from the Mormon god of Kolob
are you supporting the polytheist over the Christian too?
Billy Graham hasn't been a Christian since he accepted the 'New Age Religion' theology, i.e. All roads lead to heaven. Graham's opinion one way or the other should not influence Christians.
For the first time I am losing respect for Billy Graham. Why get involved in a secular, political election? Even so, why support a Mormorn; let's be honest, the Mormon religion is contrary to the Word of God.
Mormon's believe in Christ. Good enough for me. And I'm a Protestant, not a Mormon. Some of the nicest, Christlike people I know are Mormons, so get over it. As a matter of fact, they behave better than some of the Protestants with whom I used to attend church ~ some of those folks could learn a lot from the Mormons. JMHO.
The Grahams are mixing their religion into politics and now this is the legacy which Billy Graham will be remembered for, co-opting his religion into politics. Too bad, because it does nothing to benefit politics and cheapens one's religion.
Time for churches to lose their tax exempt status. If you want to play in the political arena pay your taxes like everone else.
You are absolutely right about the tax-exempt status. The "good work" of most churches directly supports the same people who donate to them. This is not exactly what charity is supposed to be about. Then, when church leaders presume to advise all of us about political choices, they take a big step too far from their missions. Imagine what we could do for the deficit if we disallowed religious tax-deductions.
Big bucks went to the Grahamsss.....who will believe in their teachings....they care less for the poor..
Satan is waiting for your soul....
Billy Graham can buy ads to support Romney if he likes. Last time I checked, it was still a free country and people can have a change of heart.. And so much for the liberals thinking that Evangelicals won't vote for Romney because he's a Mormon. So good luck with the narrative Obama will pull the majority of Evangelicals since Evangelicals don't like Mormons. Ain't gonna happen.
I am a conservative and a patriot. I believe being an "evangelical" has lost its meaning. Too much time is spent on "declaring what we believe" versus "sharing the Gospel with love". I don't see how getting involved in partisan politics helps that cause.
Hey, @but then again.. As for Graham has the right to spend his money on ads, not if he buys them with tax exempt income from his "ministries". Are you that ignorant?
God moves his hand in ways we don't understand sometimes. All you have to do is look at the events that surround Christ's crucifixion and his resurrection ~ politics of the day played a big part in bringing what happened together. Supernatural events threaded themselves with earthly events such as politics of the day which took place ~ but you're right ~ God's love and Christ taking on the Sins of the World upon his shoulders is the bottom line. But Billy Graham can support Romney, just as the Hollywood elite liberals can support Obama. Just my take on it.
Well, Romney just lost my vote.
Well, you're in the minority if you're an Evangelical. 79 percent of Evangelicals support Romney.
BoughtExperience, the moral decline of this nation is due to the gross hypocrisy of the professing church, particularly the so-called leaders. The lifestyle of these modern day ministers and evangelists is soooo contrary to Bible teaching. They speak one thing and live another and it takes very little to lead them to compromise. This is creating more hindrance to the furthering of the truth of God's love. The Bible speaks of preachers who will lead many to Christ, but they will be lost. May God have mercy on the Grahams and the many leaders like them.
" The Bible speaks of preachers who will lead many to Christ, but they will be lost. "
Amen... But you know, it's all happening to God's plan according to the Bible anyway, so why b itch about it ?
You know, the non-believer/immoral people are going to the hot place and the believer/moral people are going to their heavenly home with jesus, etc...
Nothing you can do about it.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.