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.
Just goes to show you can talk a 94 year old man into doing anything, even compromising his ethics. And I thought preachers were supposed to be for everybody, regardless of race or creed.
Jesus never endorsed Caesar
Can't wait unit he dies.
I think g-o-d is trying to hold off as long as possible before having him come up there and pester everyone. He put in a call to Lucifer, and he doesn't want him either.
True colors shining through. Organized religion simply can't help itself. The pinnacle has been reached, in essence, the American evangelical version of the Pope is running political ads anointing our next political leader. This is exactly the path organized religion takes throughout the centuries. Nothing different from the Popes of old anointing a new King, linking religious and political lives of the populace to maximize control. Usually done when one man attempts to wrap himself in robes of piety. This is no different...it just seems different.
It is a great day when an individual such as the Rev Graham supports the scriptures that pertain to Americans Heritage. No I am not a member of the Mormon Church; however, if you look at the life of its members you will find that they support the values of this nation. Take a look at the President and reflect on his support of the religious standards that this nation was founded on.
and.....Billy Graham should stay out of politics. period. or hie thee to Kolob.
Then black churches should stop too – right?
This is sad. What has happened to separation of church and state? I am glad, however, that Graham removed Mormonism from his list of cults. As a person of Christian faith, I abhor that a pastor buys ads in an attempt to influence voters.
Then you surely detest the role black churches play on behalf of Democrats too - right?
So American Christianity has lowered itself into the bowels of today's bigoted Republican party.
God help us.
I just lost all of my respect for Billy Grahm. What a shame...
You had respect for Billy Graham?
He's been had by his own son and Gov. Romney. As Ann Romney said, "Mitt will not fail." Even if it means using one of the few remaining Americans of integrity we have to further their own purposes. He will do anything, say anything, to win this election. I haven't lost respect for Rev. Graham because I think he really wasn't in on this. I have, however, lost respect for Gov. Romney and Franklin Graham. Boy, they think we're dumb.
Whether through individuals, corporations or advocacy groups, such political advocacy is often believed to engender a cronyist or patronage system via which major contributors are rewarded on a more or less quid pro quo basis. In fact, while campaign donations need not directly affect the legislative decisions of elected representatives, the natural expectation of donors is that their needs will be served by the person they donated to. If not, it is in their self-interest to fund a different candidate or political organization. What will a Romoney cabinet look like, a supreme court look like, a state department look like? It's time to act - Citizens United must be struck down and reform take place before the streets get ugly ..
Billy Grahams Religion IS money.
First of all Billy Graham is not America's pastor. Scripture tells us not to bow to no man. So Mitt R. is the right choice since Billy Graham has endorsed him. Well, how can I trust this pastor who once believed Mormonism was a cult. Let me say to the faith community, Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. If we are voting on biblical vales than we would not be voting. He should have added that God hates liars.
But don't forget, Mitchell...it is okay if you're "lying for the lord!"
The Grahams don't love their god, they love only money, i bet they hit it off with o-mitt real good. I always thought there was something creepy about those two.
Citizens of the planet Kolob rejoice! As was revealed by the scrying stones, Mitt's magic underpants will usher in the age of the White Horse in the White House! All praise our Church's tax exempt status as it affords us the means to buy political ads further infusing our religious agenda into government matters. Forget the whole "cult" label thing as God changed his mind "again" and has decided we should place a figure of Joseph Smith carrying the sacred gold tablets under every cross of Jesus. Please note the Church now offers kosher certified dancing snakes to it's "tongue speaking", circle spinning congregation at a modest price. These "special" snakes help channel your divine message more clearly ensuring your prayer gets top results! As an added bonus, the first 50 callers will receive a free bottle of holy water energy drink a $500.00 value, yours today if you call now!
He used to be Christian, he sold that out this year.
As revealed in the Nixon tapes, he (B illy Boy) was a tru blue anti- semite back then. All he's doing is exhibiting his true beliefs.
I think these preachers who give to candidates and publically endorse them should not be tax exempt. He's a rich man as is Romney. It's all about money! The preacher wants to keep more!
This now solidifies my vote for Obama. Just one more reason, and a big one.
Amen. I agree completely.
Then you surely detest the role black churches play on behalf of Democrats too – right?
Billy Graham has never endorsed a presidential candidate and I am convinced that he would not do that now. He also would not do something so flighty as to suddenly remove "Mormonism" from the cult list on his website. His son, however, who is not the man of unshakeable integrity his father has always been, would. Billy Graham is 94, old, and sick. His "statement" did not ring true. Mitt Romney is using an ailing American treasure for his own gain. He has shown himself to be what he is: ruthless.
Billy Sr. must be suffering from Romnesia, too!
This man is nothing but a phony too. He endorses Romney and Ryan, two guys that would gut Medicare and Social Security in the name of profits over people. Yeah, Mr. Graham doesn't have to worry about Medicare or Social Security, he very well off, he could care less about real America. Phony worms and their phony Christian values.
Billy Graham used to say that he stayed in the middle politically so that he could reach out to both sides. I think this is a big change for him... and as a Christian who is in the middle, I'm unhappy about it. Especially removing the cult reference...that's almost hypocritical.
what do you mean almost. There isn't any almost about it.
I guess that romney made a generous donation as a friend of the ministry. This is too sad. Romney does not care about you or anybody in this country.
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.