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.
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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.
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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.
I wonder now if Billy Graham was ever a person of integrity? There's no way an evangelical Christian could ever call Mormonism anything other than a cult. To do so is insincere and indicates a lack of integrity if not an outright lie.
Too bad America's real "first pastor", Fulton J. Sheen, isn't around today. He would see through Romney in a heartbeat. He always did tell it, tell it, tell it like it T – I – Is.
I hope this is that hateful pastor's last election also.
As a Baptist pastor I am so disappointed in Dr. Graham and his son and ministries for taking this stand to sway the election for their candidate Mitt. Part of me wonders if Billy even knows this ad has been placed–I respect him that much. But this involvement by the church in partisan politics (and it IS that, not some cloudy notion of encouraging people to vote their values and principals) is one big reason why young people and young adults are leaving the church in droves. It's no longer focused on the larger things that matter. And yes, there are larger things than presidential elections.
@gay guy. Take a chill pill man. Instead of making me mad like you are intending to do, you are just making me really sad for you. I mean, I really feel sorry for you. I hope you figure things out soon... for your sake. I mean, you can't just keep going on like this. If you were jewish during world war II living in germany, you'd be running down the street screaming that you are jewish... just sad... at least Romney won't actually kill you, he's only after your money.
Come on ... go easy on Billy. He's 96 with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. He doesn't know what's going on or what Romney stands for (well ... when he's actually standing for something).
There is probably something to what you say. Which is sad. If anything, that means that Romney is taking advantage of an old senile man. Well that sounds about right at least...
I am amazed Billy Graham would subtlely endorse this man. Increasingly, he exhibits his personal dislike of Democrats by hiding under the umbrella of Christianity. Hopefully, people have enough sense to not follow the advice of this so-called Christian leader.
He doesn't have dislike for Democrats. He's big friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton. And a lot of other people who aren't conservative that he has advised spiritually. That's just your own narrow mindedness getting in the way. Just my observation.
So the King Christian is telling all of his little sheep to vote AGAINST a Christian and FOR a guy whose religion doesn't believe in Christ in order to conserve America's Christian values? Yeah, that makes sense.
Obama aint a christian, he is a muslim socialist, he said it himself, HE IS A MUSLIM
A. He never said that.
B. Way to troll. Everybody knows that you're not really gay, you're just looking for attention. Otherwise, you wouldn't be voting for somebody who is trying to take away your rights as a gay man.
I agree, Jarrett and I have a pretty good idea who the troll is.
Romney has a black soul and Graham has been sold out by the Devil (also known as greed). This is a sad time in America. Is there anyone left on the Earth that can't be just sold out anymore?
GRAHAM IS WONDERFUL, ROMNEY IS SMART AND CARES, OBAMA IS GROSS, AND IM GAY, U LIBERALS SUCK
After labeling the Mormon church a curt and anti Christ for years, suddenly you endorse one of its pastors to be the president. Only God knows who is actualy representing Him. We are justified by God, not by a preacher. I am of the almighty God, but I think the so called defenders of the faith are now doing things that hardly of Christ. The far right question Obama's faith despite accusing his pastor of more than 20 years of extreme views, so the can have the excuse to support a Mormon. Talk about racial divide!
Mormons are not Christians, so how can Mr. Graham endorse a cult? Senility has set in.
O-mit Romney BEFORE he destroys the working class people, the poor, and the seniors of this country. He and Ryan are compulsive liars. That is NOT a family value.
Biblical – schmiblical.......vote for the person who is turning the economy around.....OBAMA 2012!!
Here's a little prophecy for you ~ Obama is not going to win. And that thing about him winning Ohio, there are at least 7 other ways Romney can win without winning Ohio. Sorry to be the bearer of such troubling news. But that's how the tea leaves read. So suck it up.
May be Mr. Graham is jealous that what he could not achieve in his whole life Obama was able to achieve in 4 years with his policies for poor & middle class and, more young people are following Obama than the religion. Or, he is just a racist, cannot withstand the president's skin color.
As a Christian who has always had the highest regard for Billy Graham and his work, I look at this with great sadness. A large part of what made him "America's Pastor" was his non-partisan stance. Nothing whatsoever good can come from becoming entwined in the political system. Twenty years ago, this man would have had the good judgement to know this. I believe that the organization made the decision to take an old man's good name and use (abuse) it for their own purposes. I don't know whether they enjoy tax exempt status or not, but if they do, I hope it gets pulled.
I want Paul Ryan in me
Yeah, I'm sure your hero's Romney and Ryan would support you in that goal... man, if their was a stupidest person of the year award... nuf said.
I agree. If they are openly endorsing candidates, then they should no longer have tax exempt status. We have a bishop in my hometown who is doing the same thing from his pulpit each week. Come on IRS. Get on this. How come these churches can be tax exempt and yet do what they are doing? Why don't you enforce the law on this one?
Sherry ~ you would rather see someone of your faith and your own church fall because you perhaps don't agree with them politically? You chose secular politicians over your own supposed faith and want those of your faith punished for it? What about the people you fellowship with? You would go out of your way to get the IRS on their backs? You sound a bit disconnected and perhaps a more than a bit disingenuous. Just my observation.
Tax-exempt status is not at stake here. He did not even mention a name of a candidate. He said simply to vote for biblical values. That is up to the Christian voter to interpret. He did not imply that the one with those values was perfect either. The implication is simply that the alternate candidate is too contrary to biblical standards. Yes, that means voting the least repugnant one.
Thank you Mr Graham, we'll take a look at your tax exempt status. thank you, be ready for back pay and penalties. Yours, the IRS
Biblical principals? Mormonism is not a biblical principal by any stretch, and I am not a Christian. What a dumb a** that old man became.
The most disturbing part of our society in the last decade is that 18 to 30 yr olds have little or no sense for religious values. It as though they have no thoughts about where the world and everything beyond comes from.. Morals are an all time low. We have a president that encourages immoral lifestyles and whose political career is built around immorality.
I'll agree many morals are at a low. Your lies about the President demonstrate that. It's not like he cheated to become President, like Bush Jr.
I'm a father to a couple of those 18-30 year old persons that you reference. A father that was raised Catholic. I am extremely proud of my children, that they didn't fall into some dogmatic crevasse that closed their minds to the rest of the world. You should try it. It's a wonderful thing to think beyond your interpretation of ink on paper written by men.
I think the world (the 6+ billion year old planet that you reference) and the Universe are just fine the way they are. We're doing pretty good.
So Mormonism is no longer a cult and Mr. Rominey really means he is prolife this time.
So Mr. Graham were wrong when you called Mormonism a cult or are you wrong now?
You have now made it clear that Politics are more important to you than reaching the lost. Jesus will forgive you, he keeps his promises.
No where did he say that Mormonism is no longer a cult. They just removed a reference on their website to avoid giving one more thing for people to politicize.
Was Mr. Graham's endorsement of Romney before or after his website pulled down the statement that Mormonism is a cult?
As a Christian I am appalled at Mr Graham coming out and endorsing Willard. Pathetic!
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.