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October 18th, 2012
11:45 PM ET

Billy Graham buys election ads after Romney meeting

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Leaders • Politics

soundoff (2,816 Responses)
  1. Planet Kolob

    Strip the churches of tax exempt status.

    I find it hilarious Graham would support a Mormon Romney over a christian Obama, based solely on Romneys continuously changing positions on abortion and contraception.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  2. bill

    Billy Graham was burned by the GOP Richard Nixon administration during watergate and swore never to enter into politics again. It is disgraceful and shameful how Graham would not only enter into the political realm again, but to pervert Christianity in doing so with ads purchased by GOP SuperPAC's. The GOP is as religiously upright as the taliban and Billy Graham is doing to his "legend" as Joe Paterno, Roger Clemons, Brett Favre and Lance Armstrong have done to theirs. The GOP are so desperate to have stooped so low during this campaign and I will NEVER vote for the GOP again!

    October 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  3. Bob C.

    I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church in Louisiana.
    Because I have moved several times for my career and belonged to several SBC churches, in the southern USA,over the last 35 years or so, I have been subjected to numerous Sunday School classes and occasional sermons about the evils of the cult of :Mormonism."
    I personally do not now and never have regarded the Mormons as a cult and believe them to be Christians. However, I also believe that President Obama is a sincere Christian. He openly declares himself to be a Christian. It is too bad that the word of a "N" is no good in the SBC. I often hear disparaging remarks about that "N" in this part of the country.
    So, now after all these years the SBC is rallying behind what they have long declared non-Christians in order to politically defeat a real Christian.
    Perhaps we WASPS should tke a closer look at our fears of losing power in this country.
    p.s. I found Billy Graham's autobiography to be inspiring.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  4. JimK2450

    Gee...let's take a poll...Do you believe in seperation of church and state...and if not, who gets to choose what church/religion should rule over this country?

    Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that religion has no place in politics and/or the "public" laws that we live by.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  5. Anne

    Oh well, Billy Graham always was a greedy charlatan, so his newly found friendship with that phony mormon shouldn't come as a surprise. Pathetic really that stuff like that even has a chance of working in the US. It wouldn't in Europe.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  6. Frank

    The hypocrisy of this lunatic is almost overwhelming. A month ago, according to Graham, Romney was a member of a cult.
    Apparently that's all out the window now.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  7. McShannon

    Tax exempt money is not legally used to endorse or promote a political candidateand yet here's Billy Graham promoting a cultist yesterday and republican today, how convenient!

    October 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  8. Born Again Progressive

    The highlight of my spiritual life was attending a Billy Graham Crusade in Baltimore in 1982 (thereabout). I was enraptured with pure delight! Among other things they taught me was that Mormonism was a cult. Well, now that Mr. Graham has decreed that it no longer is, can we move on to other issues in the election?

    While I do respect Mr. Graham's views outlined in his huge ad buy (and in fact share some of them). Thank God not one cent of my sweat went into that. Maybe he's a little senile now, but I find his legacy quite consistent in "walking over to the other side of the road" to avoid the issues of the poor, minority rights, women's issues and workers rights. Mr. Graham knows on which side his bread is buttered. Such rife hypocrisy certainly does not need my support. I pray for his health and smooth transition to glory – in God's time. However, come Election Day the old man will find out whose prayers are answered.

    Saved But Not Stupid

    October 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  9. Ancestorscamein1650

    As if you needed another reason to run away from Mitt.
    The Founding Fathers had it right.... Separate Church and State! The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association should be ashamed playing partisan politics. Billy and son now rank up there with Jim Baker, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, and the most vile of all, Jerry Falwell.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  10. BeyondBelief

    What happened to separation of church and state. Billy Graham is a has=been. why he changes his stance is laughable as joke, "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."

    October 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  11. Hypatia

    Elmer Gantry lives

    October 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  12. CaliforniaAC

    There's a lot to be said for the old man. If he dies Christianity does not die. Christian values are what our founding fathers used for building our country and they still apply. Problems is we as christians are divided on what christian values are most important. To me one is above all. ONE NATION UNDER GOD, With right-wing politics Christianity is used to have us embrace ONE NATION UNDER GREED!
    May God help our country make the right decision.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Louis

      Billy got famous by simply rehashing St. Paul in a popular way, and he expressed his true bigotry in the Nixon tapes. The Christians who helped found this nation were just as bigoted, and most didn't see Jews, blacks, or even women as being even remotely equal to them. We've progressed as a nation, so why do Christians want to drag us back to the values of that era?

      October 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Ancestorscamein1650

      The Founding Fathers were mostly practicing Masons and had a genuine mistrust of organized religion. Read some history.

      October 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • tallulah13

      @California

      Read a little history. Then you will know that the Consti.tution and government of the United States were based on the principles of the Enlightenment (reason and science), not on religion. Our founding fathers understood that religion is the enemy of freedom, therefore should not be allowed a foothold in our government. Their wisdom allows citizens of this country to worship (or not worship) as they see fit, without fear of prosecution, as long as they are not breaking any civil laws.

      Also, the "one nation under god" thing wasn't added until 1954, in response to the Cold War. I do agree that greed is destroying this country, and that some of the greediest Americans are the same ones "praising the lord" the loudest.

      October 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  13. Rational

    At 94, the old coot doesn't have long to live and if there is a God, Billy will pay for this one soon. It's a weird time we live in when the guy whose great grandfather left the US so he could keep his multiple wives and who himself was a leader in that same religion – one that puts Joseph Smith on par with Moses and believes in magic underwear (read up on Mormonism, it's one crazy bunch of ideas) – gets picked as the "biblical" guy by the old bible thumper himself. The Grahams are an embarrassment. Romney is pathetic- and dangerous. Don't you think it is interesting that the state he was governor of is solidly in Obama's column. The people who had him as their chief executive don't think he's good in a leadership position.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Louis

      Magic underwear isn't any more weird than believing in the Rapture, or transubstantiation.

      October 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  14. Todd Nieman

    Vote for God: pro-guns, pro-war, tax breaks for the wealthy and not helping the poor. These are all the things Jesus taught!

    October 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • DC from NJ

      Thank you for your post. I was beginning to think that I was the only person who thought this way...I only wish that there were many more of us!

      October 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  15. Soulmates

    Hmmm, is this a loophole Romney plans to close? Religious Freedom to select the POTUS.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  16. left hook

    Any doubt now that this religious grifter- and now his kid – have for decades been and will contiue to be nothing put a tool-fool water carriesr for the cons?

    October 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  17. Soulmates

    Billy is a lot closer to Kolob these days.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Louis

      Getting old and starting to cover all his bets. I wouldn't be surprised if Ryan has him saying his rosary as well.

      October 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  18. Russ

    Maybe at one time Billy Graham's word had weight. Now, most of his followers are dead or vote Republican anyway. He's a preacher who has outlived his flock.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • CaliforniaAC

      There's a lot to be said for the old man. If he dies Christianity does not die. Christian values are what our founding fathers used for building our country and they still apply. Problems is we as christians are divided on what christian values are most important. To me one is above all. ONE NATION UNDER GOD, With right-wing politics Christianity is used to have us embrace ONE NATION UNDER GREED!

      October 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  19. Carli

    Well I've seen it all. Rev. Graham has NEVER been this political in my young life. This is nothing but the work of his right wing son, Franklin. As far as I'm concerned, Franklin has really tarnished his father's legacy now. Before allowing Franklin to drive the rest of the Billy Graham Mnistry into the ground, someone around Rev. Graham needs to do something. I will never donate another penny to this ministry. Trust me, the bucket goes around quite a few times during a crusade!

    October 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • queename*

      Right on Carli.e. But there are some idiots that will never learn and keep sending their last dime to the likes of billy and franklin. At least romney steals his money but to continue to pass the bucket and steal from poor ia an abomination

      October 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Tom

      I think it was Franklin who started slipping in tracts with the shoebox donations. Acted all innocent when he got caught and couldn't understand why government money was going to stop because of it.

      October 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  20. Reality

    There are always economics built into one's beliefs. For example, is Susan Jacoby an atheist because there is money to be made from books, speeches and columns on the subject? Unless she and others in the business of making good income from books, etc. on religion, secularism, or atheism take a vow of poverty, we will never know.

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.

    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000/yr

    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr

    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr

    Erica Brown $134,221/yr

    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr and his “non-profit’s” investment portfolio of $1.2 million

    Dr. Herb Silverman $100,000/yr. ?

    Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy, $400,000/yr/ea estimated

    Susan Jacoby ????

    October 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Cheri Trilian

      The Reality is the 1% will vote for Romney unless they are a humanitarian regarding the less fortunate. The middle class and the poor will vote for Obama unless they are mentally inept...

      October 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
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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.