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 would opt to write directly through your media to Billy Graham. I will like to thank him for the major influence he and his teachings and his books exerted on my personal Christian life. Throughout this travel as a Christian, I have respected him and his work. The major reason is that I got to a better understanding of the 4-spiritual laws and through additional input from Billy's work, I could call Jesus as my Lord and Personal Savior, additionally, I could move from being a Mormon to a Christian. I had just been baptized as an Aaronic priest and with the help of Billy's teachings that my first year university mates shared, I made the shift to Christianity. I understood that there was no other book other than the Bible which contained the eternal, infallible Word of God. Then, I could rate Joseph Smith's experiences as nothing coming close to what was in the Word of God. Thanks to Billy. Now, I would like to ask where this teaching went: that we are saved by faith and not works? That as long as we become marked by Christ as His own, even if we fell into sin we could be forgiven. So that even if I was gay, asking God's forgiveness would be enough to be seen as a child of God. Let me ask again. If we had a black gay presidential candidate and a white Buddhist candidate, who would you support? (I have deliberately chosen the two extremes to make it easy for you). But would you sincerely say that your choice is not racially driven? If race was a factor in your choice, Pastor, I will ask you to ask God to forgive you, because this is a sin so strong that it even makes you clearly remove LDS as a cult from your website. I have tried to come to your website to write a personal letter but a 404 error is posted. Please carefully consider this as you prepare to meet Jesus your First Love, as you have indicated and do not let the color of anybody’s skin deter you from going to meet the Savior at the Beautiful Shore. You deeply break my heart.
All the religious fundamentalists were voting for Romney to begin with. It changes nothing.
They want this country run like it's a theocracy, which it IS NOT. Yea, not everyone believes that policies should be based on the bible. It is important for people who don't want hypocritical, hateful Baptist thinkers (and racists) DECIDING OUR LIVES (hint women's issues) I vote by the book, what a stupid statement Try voting on NOT OUTSOURCING OUR JOBS...thanks Romney.
Also, not a donation. He "bought" the adds.
Advanced age has not blessed billy graham with wisdom and compassion.
He's being compassionate to the wrong group. Is that what you meant to say?
Yep Yep, Politics as usual......and such political support by a religious group violates IRS Code section 501(c)(3). Is anyone going to go after the Graham Ministry for such blatant violation? And by the way did you notice how the religious factions and ministries openly support Israel?
Well, this is what America has become....We are not for America we are for Israel....the whole election is a exercise to repeat a blind support for the nation of Israel. What happens to America.....who cares?
Wrong. He doesn't mention any specific candidate, and it's not a "donation". He bought the adds himself. Smart. :)
Do you know anything about Christianity or the Bible or why Israel was brought up? How is this even a race for Presidency anymore? Obama is nothing more than a slick car salesman who is pullng a fast one on every American who votes for him. He's reminds me of my college roomate who was in student Government that said all the right things and was getting drunk and as corrupt as they get when no one is looking......our society and the moral decline is just sad...
Tax religion, end the deficit.
I agree, I had a friend who needed food, so she went to the church as they had a pantry. They made her get on her knees and say she'll sin no more and all kinds of stuff. She is NOT a sinner; SHE was starving. WHAT A HOLES. I'm sorry but TAX them,
Exactly why religious organizations should not get tax breaks.
Isn't this guy dead yet? Who knew he was actually an Israeli political agent? Israel doesn't need Americas help, and we don't need to give it. They certainly didn't need it in the 6 day war when they kicked the ass of Egypt, Jordan AND Syria. Why is the middle east still a holy crusade for Christians? Don't we have enough problems at home?
UNFRED: We are in the Middle East because of our dependence on OIL.
To rich for rich by rich to rich from billy graham
The difference between a religion and a cult: In a cult, the guy at the top knows it's a fraud; in a religion, the guy at the top is dead.
As good a definition as I have ever seen.
I just know Romney will give me one.
Sorry, janey, but I can't help you. I only give brains to my rich pals. Along with my special magic underpants.
I wish I had a brain.
You do, dear. It's in the Bell Jar on the alien space ship, hooked up to electrical impulses, keeping it alive and quite functional.
So much for Billy Graham remaining apolitical.
Seriously, Keep your religion OUT of politics and OUR lives. This is NOT A THEOCRACY people.
Best laugh I've had in a while!
I believe that this action will do a lot of damage to the ministry's reputation.
Boy, I've never seen so many upset souls distraught over Billy Graham supporting Romney. You'd think it was Jesus himself supporting him. Got news for you, Billy Graham and the rest of us are as far away from Jesus as we can get. But I am willing to bet, Billy will see Heaven before the rest of any of you or I do.
@ The Oracle, Billy will see heaven before the rest of us? I didn't know that God already sent u a text. Have u read Dante's Inferno? How we are perceived on earth, is not necessarily how we are perceived UP There! Remember that.
THey want this country run like it's a theocracy, which it IS NOT. Yea, not everyone believes that policies should be based on the bible. It is important for people who don't want hypocritical, hateful Baptist thinkers (and racists) DECIDING OUR LIVES (hint women's issues) I vote by the book, what a stupid statement Try voting on NOT OUTSOURCING OUR JOBS...thanks Romney.
God and Truth are not found in one book or one religion
Go and see some other countries and cultures and the world
Mayve Billy Graham should be spending "His Own Money" on these ads... and save the churches money for helping the Poor People in America... What a waste of Parishoners Money... going to a lost cause... SEPARATE CHURCH AND STATE ...PLEASE
You don't know what's coming to pass with this. All speculation on your part. And you're absolutely clueless.
Dennis – ever hear the saying 'dumb as a box of rocks?' or 'not the sharpest tool in the box?'
Clearly in the article says "the ads were paid for by "friends who support the ministry" and that no general ministry funds were used." So church and state are separate.
If Billy Graham is using the platform of his church to influence political voting then he has crossed the line of separation of church and state. His Church and all religions should pay taxes on the income they receive. Religious Influence peddling should result in loss of tax exception status.
The Talibanization of America.
You don't know what talibanization is.
Pat Robertson does; he SAID a man should have been a Muslim so he could beat his wife. Look it up, he goes on. His "friend" said she thinks it should be back in the day where women don't vote, only men; this coming from a woman, a stupid one.
They should BOTH move to Afghanistan.
Oh but he does what Talibanization means.
It is when "religion" tries to become "political" and tell you what to do.
This is a terrible day in America when Billy Graham is taken in by Mitt Romney.
Did no one tell him that Mitt's Romneycare required abortions to be covered and hospitals to provide them?
Did no one tell him how he met with Planned Parenthood before he was governor and agreed to support them?
Did no one tell him about his "I will be a better friend to gays than Ted Kennedy" ad. Back before it was "cool" to be supportive of gays and gay marriage.
Dear Billy - you should know better than anyone that if the country is to be changed, it is changed from the heart of people - not on that single day every 4 years when we elect a president. Why not ask Romney about the injustice of stealing millions of pensions from people who worked all their life, or putting Chinese workers into virtual slavery through outsourcing where they work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 12 hours a day and then PAY their masters from their 99 cents an hour for room and board and live in rooms with as many as 12 people to a room? Why didn't you see that in his character?
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.