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Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A
July 26th, 2012
02:18 PM ET

Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN)– Billy Graham, the dean of American evangelists, has once again broken his usual silence on hot-button issues, defending the president of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain for his opposition to same-sex marriage days after issuing a letter decrying what he sees as the nation's moral decay.

Earlier this year, the ailing preacher publicly endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay unions in North Carolina, raising eyebrows among many who'd watched Graham studiously avoid thorny social issues for years.

On Thursday, he issued a statement of support for the popular fast-food chain. Many people have slammed Chick-fil-A President Don Cathy for saying his company backs the traditional family unit and is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Graham praised restaurant founder S. Truett Cathy and son Don Cathy, the company's president, "for their strong stand for the Christian faith."

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"I've known their family for many years and have watched them grow Chick-fil-A into one of the best businesses in America while never compromising their values," Graham said.

The Chick-fil-A controversy reflects what many see as America's deep cultural and religious divide. The company's position on same-sex marriage doesn't sit well with Jim Henson Co., whose Jim Henson's Creature Shop toys have been served in Chick-fil-A's meals for children.

Jim Henson Co. is named for the creator of The Muppets. However, the company transferred The Muppets' rights and ownership to the Walt Disney Co. in 2003, according to Jim Henson Co.

"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over 50 years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company said in a posting on its Facebook page.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, is backing Chick-fil-A. He urged people to turn out to Chick-fil-A restaurants on Wednesday to show their support for what Cathy had to say about marriage.

Graham says he appreciated Huckabee's leadership and plans to visit a Chick-fil-A on that day, August 1.

"Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word. I appreciate the Cathy family's public support for God's definition of marriage."

On Tuesday, Graham leveled deep criticism at the United States. He compared the country to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Biblical cities synonymous with sin.

"Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle," Graham writes in the open letter released by his organization this week.

He blasts what he sees as efforts to keep references to Jesus out of the public sphere.

"Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone - except God. Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control," he writes in the letter released Tuesday.

Graham, 93, has preached to untold millions over six decades, and provided counsel to generations of U.S. presidents.

His open letter also contains a fund-raising appeal and a notice that Graham's son Franklin, himself a major evangelical figure, is launching a new effort to "bring the Gospel into neighborhoods and homes in every corner of America next year."

Randall Balmer, the chair of the religion department at Dartmouth College, suspects the motivation for the letter is at least partly political.

"It's hard for me to believe that this letter does not have political intent," he said.

Its move to decry what he would see as moral decay "would be tied to the Obama administration," he argued, asking rhetorically why Graham would not have issued the statement in response to an event like the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

In response to the controversy, Larry Ross, Graham’s spokesperson, said that “the letter does not address timely issues.”

“‘My Heart Aches for America,’ was written 6-8 weeks ago – long before recent current events, such as the tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colo movie theater, or the ongoing Chik-fil-A controversy,” Ross said in an email to CNN. “He is responding to general struggles in our culture and a moral decline that has existed through his public ministry.”

At the same time, Ross said that Graham is keen on the idea of eating Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.

“Considering Mr. Graham's age and limited mobility, his statement today was more an expression of sentiment and solidarity with the Cathy family and their cause than actually a commitment to go to a Chik-fil-A himself,” Ross said. “But he does plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ on Aug. 1, which I expect someone will be able to get for him to enjoy at home.”

Balmer said that evangelicals would take note of the letter, though Graham has largely retired from the public eye in recent years.

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"There is certainly admiration for Billy Graham, as there should be," Balmer said. "There is lingering respect for Billy Graham and I think that people will take notice."

But he said the comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah - which Graham attributes to his late wife Ruth in the letter - was startling.

"When Billy Graham came to Madison Square Garden in 1957, he made comments comparing New York City to Sodom and Gomorrah and was roundly criticized for it," Balmer said. Since that time, Balmer said, Graham has largely avoided making the comparison to the Biblical cities.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Food

soundoff (2,864 Responses)
  1. Winston5

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  2. pt

    DONT CARE!!!!!!!! JOBS! ECONOMY! GUN CONTROL! Pay attention you idots! I only had to read the headline and scroll right down to the comment section This should have been off the air by now!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • MikeH

      Disagree. Equal rights for all American's should always be at the top of the list.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • EABOD

      Yeah! Intolerance of eachother is not relevant.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  3. myVu

    It's easy to see your agenda CNN. You have people up on this board who are wishing people heart disease and death and when that's reported as abuse, you let it stay. But when others disagree with "your" agenda you don't post it.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      Let me fill you in on the CNN agenda...

      ...it is MAKING MONEY...LIKE ANY OTHER BUSINESS....

      July 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  4. EABOD

    I hate two things on this planet. Intolerance and peolpe who disagree with my beliefs.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  5. psc1956

    I'm reading this message board, specifically the posts by andrew, jwpoe, tom, and solarsystem, and I'm wondering. . . Who's the hater, here?

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • EABOD

      Right on. Apparantly tolerance is a one way street.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • JKhur

      Why should any American tolerate an individual, organizatioon or company that works towards denying them their civil rights? Cathy uses corporate funds to support groups that work to deny your fellow LGBT citizens their civil rights. Since he uses company moniy to do this, boycotting the company is a reasonable response ,

      July 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Pete

      Jkhur, the real question is how come every time a post similar to yours is posted it is ignored?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  6. Di101

    Billy Graham is from a generation who operated on different frequencies. I frankly think he was very brave to adhere to his religious and moral views. While I personally think gays should have civil rights and be lawfully recognized as domestic partners, I wonder what impact this will have on traditional marriage. If we as a society redefine marriage, where do we stop? Will it be legal for group marriages? Fathers marrying their daughters? Women having 10 husbands? Where do we stop with the redefinition? I also wonder why gays are clamoring to get married, while young straight people are avoiding it, and just living together....seems ironic...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  7. TownC

    Maybe these cities that are telling Chick-fil-A they are not welcome should also tell all the churches that are against gay marriage they are not welcome either. Perhaps these cities could tell Christian businesses to have yellow crosses in their windows so they can be identified as bigots!.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  8. Jason

    Randall Balmer Chairman of the Religion Department at Dartmouth.... I suspect he will end up in a different place than Billy Graham and don't think he has any qualifications in the Christian community. You might as well got an opinion from a dog.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  9. truth and beauty

    BG – like most far right evangalicals – has nothing to do with what Chirst taught.
    The have as much to do with true Christianity as the Attila the Hun.
    The Far Right Evangelicals are the anti-Christ.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  10. Michael

    Jesus met a gay man, via the Roman Centurion, trying to heal his pais. It's the second miracle in John. The Greek term 'pais' was used to convey the younger male in a gay relationship. Jesus said of him, "Never have I seen faith greater than this." and did NOT chirp in with "now go and sin no more." Jesus even wanted to go hang out at the guy's house and have dinner. Even without the known meaning of 'pais', we all know what Roman men did with some of their younger male slaves and it's not too hard to figure out a slave master isn't going to be so desperate to save some slave that could easily be replaced unless he was in love.

    Jesus also mentions gay men as 'born eunuchs' in Matthew and again does not condemn them. There were three types of eunuchs; those who made themselves that way, those who were made by men that way and those who were born that way. Kings used "born eunuchs" to guard their Harems because those men were not interested in women.

    The original text of the Bible never condemned gay people. It's an easily verified fact via Google.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  11. qularknoo

    sin pride parades are ok? but support for traditional marriage values is not? Rev Graham is correct the US is a modern day Sodom and Gamorah

    July 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • veggiedude

      Well, that is how radical islam view the US, they can agree on that.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Michael

      The true sin of S&G was inhosptiality, it had nothing to do with orientation. Why would Lot offer his daughters to a mob of gay men? Why not his sons instead if they were gay? Was Lot placing limits on what he would do for God?

      The ironic thing is who are the people who are guilty of the true sin of Sodom???

      July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  12. becool

    So, what the big deal here? He has his point and he made it! Why we attack him or why you are surprised?

    July 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • MikeH

      Because those who set out to oppress other American's need to be shouted down. He is free to his beliefs and prejudices. He is not free to have the imposed upon others. It is truly the most fundamentally belief in the founding of this nation. Some what ironic, I know, given the history of the nation and how hard we have had to fight to move toward everybody being treated equally, but reading some of the Founding Fathers' letters quickly reveals just how fundamental they found this principle.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  13. Jason

    "Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle,". Even without a biblical context, I think he's on to something . . .

    July 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  14. TrueGrissel

    It's astounding here we live in a free society where faeries can be faeries but a normal person can't be normal or even voice an opinion without being castrated.
    This kind of censorship will keep the hate alive forever.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Andy

      hmmm castration... there's an idea

      July 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional idiocy.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • sam

      Uh...someone disagreeing with you is not the same as castration, drama queen.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Michael

      Castration? I thought the guillotine would be more effective and appropriate.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  15. jenny face

    So let's get this straight – he applauds this family for never compromising THEIR values.....so is that what this country stands for? Everyone has to have the same values? This country was BUILT on diversity. Also, its not about one compromising one's values – go ahead, live YOUR life "not in a gay lifestyle...." Just because someone else is gay, it doesn't mean if they buy your food they are gay. Also, I think that if Billy Graham was truly aware of how bad the food was for his "temple" he would condemn it. Also, if he was aware of how "God's creatures" were treated prior to being eaten in the Chic Fil A, he'd also condemn it....I don't care how long he has "known the family." He and God are going to have quite a chat at the pearly gates, by my calculations.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • veggiedude

      It is useless trying to reason with living graveyards. They are simply zombies who love their flesh.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  16. ghittsum

    Why can't a guy just have an opinion? What now? Nation-wide boycotts of Chik-fil-A? Good! Now I don't have to wait in a long line at lunch.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Andy

      Enjoy your heart disease

      July 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Michael

      Why is it your side is always the first one to attempt to boycott? McDonalds? Disney? Ford? JC Penny? Pepsi? The list is endless. But you're always the first one to whine about it when the table is turned.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • myVu

      Michael, exactly, even going so far as to wishing death upon anyone who disagrees, like Andy here.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  17. Carlin123

    Is this wacko still alive?

    July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • sam

      He's propped in a corner somewhere, and his nutty son does a little ventriloquism occasionally.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Doug Lynn

      The fools says in his heart there is no God. Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. Are you ready? Billy Graham and I are.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Satan

      I'm waiting for you and billy.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  18. Rascal Rabble

    ...rev. billyboy is old as dirt...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  19. bman023

    I'm glad that Graham spoke this way.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  20. Mike L

    It's a waste of time for believers of God's word to try to persuade non-believers of God's moral standards. Once the non-believer repents by receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior then their eyes will be opened up to the excellence of God's biblical definition of Family. "You must be born again to see the kingdom of God". (John 3:3) It's interesting to see how hateful and intolerant non-believers are becoming toward God's definition of family. I have an answer to your dilemma. REPENT!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Andy

      Would that definition include the concubines that Abraham kept?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • midwest rail

      That's WONderful ! Now show me where it says any of that in the Const-itution.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • myVu

      Mike L....Agreed!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Dan F

      Do you have any idea how ignorant you sound?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Steve

      Mike L, you do realize that MOST of the people on this planet have never heard of the God you speak of. MOST people are just trying to feed themselves and survive another day. As for families, they come in many different forms. Oh why waste my time here trying to get someone as narrow minded as yourself to understand the fantasies in your head as just that. A FANTASY!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • tolajn

      It is a waste of time trying to convey the heart of Jesus if you do not take the time and care to understand the context of which the Bible stories were written. They were oral traditions for centuries and not until it was put on paper did folks begin using one verse here and one verse there to create arguments that marginalize others that do not look and think just as the majority in power do. The Bible is a love story of God reaching out to humanity, with all of our flaws and in spite of it He pursues us day in and day out. How sad to take a glorious book like the Bible and turn it into a country club mentality of who is "in" and who is "out". It is more sophmoric thinking than what I experienced when I taught middle school. If Christians would focus on what Jesus thought important what a far better world we would have. Feeding the poor, caring for the widows, visiting the imprisoned, reaching out to the unloved, those are the principals which should guide every Christian. Verse cutting and pasting is for children, God is looking for adults.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • myVu

      Steve, is that why EVERY calendar on earth is based upon the coming of Christ???

      July 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Michael

      Mike, do me a favor and go Google what the original text stated about gay people and come back here with the facts. Lemme guess though, you don't care what the Bible originally had to say about as long as your beloved translated for the 1,000th time tell you God hates gay people as much as you do. Stop claiming morality as yours and only yours. It's hardly what God intended.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:38 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.