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.
It is now time to TAX these churches ... the long nose of these churches have finally put them into a different place politically ... TAX 'em at least 14% ... like the multi millionaires they are ...
God bless Billy Graham. He's always preached honorably.
perhaps he preached that way, but the tapes of him with nixon showed that he felt differently
freedom of Religion must include freedom from Religion
A very self contradicting statement. You can not both have something and at the same time not have it.
grammar police: that would be the case if closeminded had said that freedom of religion included no freedom of religion. he did not say that.
Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.
Who gives a crap what that sleazy old geezer thinks? Repukes just don't get the concept of church state separation, do they?
I wonder how much cash crossed Graham's son's hands - Graham is too old to modify a web site or to write an editorial, but I do believe his money-hungry son (ex-drug-addict) would do anything for money.
I believe Graham's son is stabbing his father in the back at this late stage in Billy's life. SHAMEFUL.
Romney is a dictator, a boss - and we do NOT need him in office discriminating against U.S. citizens of any ilk.
Whether these ads mention a candidate or not, there's enough coded language within them, coupled with some official and unofficial statements and comments, anyone with half a brain can see what's being implied. Obviously in the Graham's view Obama is seen as less Christian than an active dedicated Mormon. This is blatant hypocracy. The US is a free country and anyone can express their views freely. However, the Christian right has proven once again they'll shamelessly bend principles and facts in order to muddle in political affairs while invoking the name of God and/or Jesus Christ on behalf of their prefered candidate.
What a sad day when a preacher tries to sway Christian voters to vote for a religion he once deemed a CULT. He has allowed the "enemy" to use him. Very sad.
What would Joseph Smith do?
There in is the problem. No one is voting for a religion. You are voting for a candidate.
They are political. TAX these bas tards.
tax, tax, TAX Graham's church!
Just watch how fast the "references to Mormonism as a cult" go back up on their website once Romney loses the election...
America is a Christian nation. I vote only for Christians. So Willard M. Romney a member of the Mormon cult will not get my vote.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
That's exactly how I would have to interpret the Graham ads...that I should NOT be voting for Romney. Obama 2012...
MB - I agree 100%. It can't be a cult for 94 years and then change all of a sudden after a personal visit by a mormon (who probably gave the son a BUNCH of cash to buy his drugs).
america is not a christian nation
I think Billy has overstayed his welcome...
Mormons are the religion that believe in multiple spouses --
IF YOU NEED TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE TELL YOU HOW YOU SHOULD VOTE THAN YOU SURE DON'T DESERVE
THE RIGHT TO VOTE! MAYBE MOVE TO CUBA, RUSSIA OR CHINA AS THEY HAVE PLENTY OF FOLKS TO TELL YOU WHO TO VOTE FOR OR ELSE!
Tax the "church"!
When Billy Graham speaks: People LISTEN! Obama is finished!!!
LOL...Christians should not be voting for a Mormon Bishop.
the only people who listen to billy boy are other old folks who remember him from the days he was relevant. now, not so much
This just makes me sad.
Me, too. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
LET's FACE FACTS BILLY GRAHAM IS SENILE! IN NIXON'S SECRET WHITE HOUSE TAKES HE's BAD MOUTHING THE JEWISH STATE., NOW HE THINKS WE NEED TO BE BUDDY BUDDY! YOU DON'T ELECT THE PRESIDENT ON HIS RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS A MUST, AND AS MORMONS BELIEVE A MARRIAGE
SHOULD BE BETWEEN A MAN AND HIS SEVEN OR EIGHT WIVES! TIME TO SAY GOOD NIGHT BILLY!
Billy Graham said the perfect thing, I totally agree with his statement on how to vote.
As an evangelical, it is distasteful to me that Franklin Graham, a severe right-winger with little of the modesty of his Dad, dragged his Dad Billy into this campaign. Mormons are not Christians, but now the Radical Right has bought into Romney. A sad perversion of America's ailing Christianity.
There goes Graham and the christian "right" that preaches supporting Israel at all costs, even they're being a spoiled child! Why don't they all pick up and move to Israel. There they can build all the settlements they want and never have to leave.
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.