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 prefer to vote for a candidate who is for equality for everyone and who is a believer in separation of church and state.
To all believers,
If you wonder whether your leaders are faithful or just using you for power, here is your answer. Graham selling his power for Romney votes. Organized religion is corrupt. Why are they tax exempt? Because they get people elected.
Yeah, he supported Bush too, so what.
2 people with no integrity–Billy Graham and his master Mitt Romney.
You got master and slave reversed.
Nice job, Mitt. You bought a whole bunch of votes from radical Bible-thumpers. You already had the vote of those stupid people.
Obamas gonna pay my mortgage! Yay Obama!
Obama gave me an Obama phone! He gots my vote yo!
I predict that God will smite Billy Graham for endorsing Mittens.
Oh yeah, I heard that Billy has taken out insurance against frogs and flies...
Billy Graham has betrayed Christianity by selling out to a cult.
Let's see.. one is a Christian.. one is a /Mormon..
Who does he endorse?
The guy who believes in JC, or the guy who believes in Joseph Smith and the magic underwear?
Never thought I'd see the day.. On the other hand, if money is involved I should have known better.
BOTH faiths believe in JC!
The "Magic Underware" comment is so uninformed. Lol. How come I never hear anyone call rosary beads a "magic necklace"? Such selective bigots you are.
You people that are disappointed have not been paying attention... you should have been disappointed about 50 years ago... the truth is right there in the bible after all... Christ threw the money changers out of the temple, and he was dead within a week... they were back in before the next weekend and they have been there ever since.
Shame on you for making bad comments about the Rev. Billy Graham. Shame, Shame, Shame.
He's an embarrassment to the faith
As long as someone's paying him, he'll say anything. Like satan's little puppet.
Shame on Graham. And bigger shame on Romney. Last week Graham considered Romney a member of a cult, this week he supports him in very expensive ads in major newspapers. How many of you would get into bed so quickly with a man who just last week continued to insult your religion? Romney has no principles – except to win. It's sick. OBAMA/BIDEN '12!
Gee, lets see, 94 year old racist, has to choose between a cult and a black guy who is a muslim.... what a surprise... I don't see this changing many votes... probably loses as many as it gains... but it does make it obvious for those who still cannot see it.
That's why separation of church and state is so very important for this country. Billy Graham is free to endorse which ever candidate he wants and I also have my freedom of choice and my vote goes to Obama.
To Kolob, i.e., Hell, he wil!
Hi! My name is Billy, and I just sold out to Mitt Romney! How do you like me now?
Sounds like they did their homework before putting this stuff out there, but it is a HUGE gray area.
How are we encouraging others to be Christians when we, as Christians, support people that have vilified the President. It is apparent that we are profoundly affecting the future of all Christians when we choose racial choice over religious choice. I pray for all since on the day of judgement God is going to ask this question.
"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."
As close to a lie as you can get without actually saying it. Disgusting.
Exactly. I've seen the kind of things to church-members and I left a church once because of this stuff. They pick a very narrow selection of "moral" issues and tell the congregation to vote based on candidate's positions on those hot button issues. How conveniently they forget about the direction in the book of James to attend to the poor and downtrodden. Unfortunately people are too lazy to do the homework and understand what is really going on here.
Yawn. Another white Christian right winger.
Wow.... Where to start? Mormonism IS a cult! Jesus stayed clear of the politics of his day, saying, "my kingdom is no part of this World" Another failed minister reaching for undeserved Glory. Shut up already, Billy !
It is not Billy. He is just a puppet for money grubber Franklin. Billy is a well meaning, good guy who always voted for Democrats until Frankline brain washed him.
There's no question that organizations (Billy Graham Evangelist Association) acting like this should be taxed! Tax these people damit!
I used to respect this guy and always believed he was a good honest man. Just another wolf using faith for a political agenda. Disgusting. Pastors have no business publicly endorsing a political candidate. They use a limited set of choice moral issues.
Ok Reverend Grahams, I'll make my choice based on the direction from the Book of James – to take care of the poor and downtrodden.
Do ya think Rev. Graham will influence more people than you Mark ?
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.