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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. adrifter

    The sad thing is these intolerant Christian fundamentalists actually think they're being moral, good, decent people by discriminating. Go figure.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  2. Tanker

    From the Gospel of Bert and Ernie, brought to you by the numers 10, 7, and the letter N:

    Play well with others; share, everyone is different. Its ok to love other people.

    So sayth Bert and Ernie...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  3. Goddtymes

    Sad that FREE speak has to be punished by the democrats supporters, is it your views are okay as along as they agree with mine?

    July 26, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Michael

      Me not understand your free speak. Could you speech a more clearly?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Cobb

      You can say whatever you want, but if it is idiotic, close-minded and offensive, you just have to be ready to suffer the consequences. P.S. I agree with "Mister"!!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • JoJo

      Nobody really cares what you say. It , like what I say, is not that important. Is it really .

      July 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • vingtsunguy

      Free speech goes both ways. Someone who wants/likes to say whatever he or she wants should be ready to hear some responses that he or she doesn't like.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  4. emdub

    we should support chik fil a – they're helping redneck bigots meet jesus sooner

    July 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Michael

      Dear God,

      Please, please, please, please, please save me from your followers.

      Sincerely,

      Michael

      ......

      Are you still with us because if so it obviously didn't solve this issue.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • vingtsunguy

      It's both naive and close-minded a notion that religion and morality are the same thing, and that only through religion can someone have a strong and good character. Religion is often misused to justify one's own insecurities and fears. Our children should be taught that they should what's right because it's right, and not because they may get a prize (heaven) or punishment (hell) if they don't.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Wunter Slouch

      Really?....Because I think my entire perenial garden (living things) have turned their back on faith. And I must say, they have been a lot happier, healthier and hartier ever since. 😛

      July 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  6. Jamie Douglas

    I thought he was dead or terminally senile. He has nothing to add to the conversation. He got so stinking rich on Evangelism, how come he does not give some of his fortune away? Parasite!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • concerned

      What an ignorant statement. I love free speech. Anyone can say anything, regardless if its even true or not! Billy Graham has contributed so much to the world. I dont think you could even begin to measure just what he has given and sacrificed for humanity. Shame on you to slander such a devoted hard working caring individual. Thats your right! All i got to say is 'EAT MORE CHICKEN"! And God bless America...SON!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  7. The_Pope_is_just_another_man

    I like Jesus.But I never liked Chic-fil-a.Or Billy Graham

    July 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Was blind, but now I see

      Hater!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  8. Lars

    Don't forget what happened to Anita Bryant. Boycott Chick Fil A

    July 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  9. Unknown

    Go chick fli A!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  10. Rob

    I've known for years the owners were a bunch of bible thumpers, no prob. But their support for hate groups is why I will no longer spend an average of 40 dollars a week there

    July 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      Why does it matter what the political views of the people who make your chickhen sandwich make ? Does it taste better?
      Why make people change what they believe just because they don't agree you! Nazi

      July 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • vingtsunguy

      Funny how "Rebel4Christ" thinks that you're trying to impose your will on others, by making a personal decision, and yet you're the Nazi. I don't support their business either. Let's all celebrate diversity and support equal rights to all tax paying citizens.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  11. Rob

    Give me some of that old time Jaysus chicken!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  12. Nate

    DAN Cathy. Not "Don" Cathy. I stopped reading the article there.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  13. CB

    It is not because they are a "Christian" company, it is not just the statement that Cathy made, though it did spur the argument, IT IS because corporate money is used to support HATE groups such as the AFA (SPLC designated hate group), EXODUS International who until recently believed in/supported reparative therapy and the National Organization for Marriage. The question/point/debate really should be "Do patron's really want the money they spend at Chick-fil-A going to those organizations?"

    July 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • rivahwoman

      Well, how very rude of him to have opinions (yours, of course, are ok, though, right?)!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Michael

      Did you see the now-deleted tweet of his? He thanked a publication for the news item and then chirped in with how it really lit up the LGBT community.

      Yeah, that's not a total jerk at all...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • JKhur

      Opinions are fine, but when those opinions turn into actions directed at denying your fellow cirizens their civil rights, then all Americans should be outraged and boycott Chick FIl A.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  14. Giorgio Albergo

    Is that Judge Alvin Valkenheiser from Nothing But Trouble?!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0Dg1gdWxAM

    July 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  15. Pablo

    "The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over 50 years..."

    Until someone disagrees with us, then we'll cease doing business with them.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • GAW

      Chick-fil-A Helping to increase the belt-size of Evangelicals everywhere.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Name*Brandonj73

      Yep, that's how things work in a free society. Private companies and individuals have every right not to do business with a company that espouses values they don't like, or for any other reason. On the other hand, no one has the right to prevent a company from doing business if it is legal and privately funded. Boston and Chicago are way out of line.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Tanker

      Bert and Ernie are TV's first openly gay couple...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Michael

      I KNOW! The nerve of the Jim Henson Company not wanting to do business with a company that doesn't believe everyone should have equal rights.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  16. TJ

    What's sad is that there are people in this country that believe noah had an arc. How can we take you seriously if you believe utter nonsense. Billy Graham is laughable and what is more comical is that christians somehow believe their anthropocentric god somehow cars who marries who. I bet he is more concerned with the brutality of how the chickens are killed and how their workers are paid horribly and supposedly treated horribly.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Marlin

      Workers are treated horribly?

      Source please.

      Unless you cite your source you can make up anything. After all 42.7% of statistics are made up on the spot.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  17. Ben22

    Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Please tell us all how many gay people you've killed.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • GAW

      Hi Ben! I look forward to reading about you in the headlines soon. You might be able to share a cell with James Holmes if you're really lucky.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Ben22

      I don't like to brag but I am sure I have booked a slot in heaven

      July 26, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • GAW

      I smell the troll!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • WayneLVN

      I remember clearly that one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Kill." So are we being hypocritical here or just ignoring that for convenience sake?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • JazzDawg

      Hey Ben, The only journey in front of you are atoms returned to the planet. I hope the next person makes better use of them.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      That's old testament my friend. That is under the old law but Jesus says that he has brought a new law and that we do not have to follow the law of the old testament, but sin never changes.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Tanker

      Bert and Ernie 10:7

      Play well with others; share, everyone is different. Its ok to love other people.

      So sayth Bert and Ernie...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Pander Bear

      "I don't like to brag but I am sure I have booked a slot in heaven"

      Yes because heaven is so full of intolerant unforgiving bigots. Tool.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Mario

      2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

      King James Version (KJV)

      11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

      12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

      In the same books it approves slavery, so the bible is filled with double morals and standards.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @All those quoting bible verses

      "Logic is the beginning of wisdom"
      Spock

      So tell me, why should I take either seriously?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Michael

      1st off, Ben, that is part of the Holiness Code and not the Moral Code? Do you know the difference? Probably not. One is a set of rules that has NOTHING to do with morality. You know, eating shellfish, pork, shaving, having tattoo's etc. Also, the term translated to 'as with' actually means 'bed' every other time it's used in Leviticus and when Paul was referring to this passage in Corinthians he wrote "male bed". Leviticus 15 even gives us a long list of bed issues. Funny how "thou shall not lie with another man on a woman's bed" would fit perfectly into a set of rules about not shaving, not wearing cotton blends, not eating pork or shellfish.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • charliespoint

      I guess your shyte doesn't stink either

      July 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • shirleyujest

      There is no religious argument against gay marriage period. Being married in this country has nothing to do with religion unless you desire it to. Men and women get married everyday in this country with no religious service at all. They go to city hall. So if you don't want gay people to marry because of your church views, then don't let them get married in your church. I am a catholic and I am able to reconcile my views completely with being a catholic. I am a woman and I married a man who was a catholic like me, but we didn't marry in the church. Many years after our divorce, and my ex husbands death I decided to go back to my faith and become part of the church again. I thought it was going to be a big hassle, because I was divorced but it was not. Even though my marriage was recognized in all 50 states, I was never considered married in my faith, because we were not married before our God. Do I want gay people to marry in my church?, I don't think in my lifetime I will have to worry about that question coming up in the Catholic church, but gay people should have the right to marry in a civil ceremony in all 50 states as I do. Christ accepted everyone and believed more than anything that we should love one another, so stop using religion to shut out an entire group of people in what is really a civil matter.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Michael

      So then why is that supposed "holy code" deserving of death if broken? Is the penalty for shaving death as well? What, in this so-called "Holiness Code", as also penalized by death?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  18. GAW

    Graham's Quote "Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle"..........Geez I think that describes most of the televangelists and their followers out there.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • rivahwoman

      As if the televangelists represent all Christians.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  19. Christian LDS

    Thank goodness for people like Billy Graham. Although he and I don't agree on our own personal faith walk, we do agree on values that matter to our nation. I will be at Chick-fil-A on the 1st to show my support of my freedom to believe what I want. It is that simple. I don't deny others their rights, and neither has this company. They have stated their beliefs. They are being pounded not because they've done anything wrong, simply because they stated their belief. Who's the hater, the bigot, the anti-everything individual here?

    July 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • rivahwoman

      Ditto to all you wrote.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Religions require some form of group dislike in order to feel connected.. Muslims dislike all other religions, Christians like gay folks and some other religions... the owner of this chicken eatery is expressing nothing new from a christian perspective and is to be expected really.. he has put his religion and his flavor of "god" before his humanity.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • JazzDawg

      Your so called Freedom is terribly misguided. and your values are what is killing your nation. Put god in jail where he belongs and let people live the way they want to. For you to say gays relationships are not ok because that is an act against god and my belief, is the ultimate hypocrisy.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Michael

      Oh God, it's the "gays are being so intolerant of intolerance, so bigoted against bigotry, hating on the haters."

      Now, gee, why do you think the LGBT community might have issues with people trying to deny them equal rights especially when those people are trying to convince everyone else gay people are subhuman and are even hated by God?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • JKhur

      Chick Fil A uses it's corporate proceeds to fund groups that are dedicated to denying your fellow citizens their civil rights. Believe what you will. Say what you will. But when you try to turn those beliefs and words into legislation to deny civil rights to a group of Americans for no better reason than you don't much like them then you have gone too far. Since he uses company money to do this, boycotting the company is a perfectly reasonable response.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  20. sjtaylorphoto

    I wonder how many straight Christians get married on ex-plantations every year in the South?

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

      Key word here is "ex" plantation. The whole country lives on ex Indian territory. What does that have to do with gay and lesbian marriages? Or whether a company speaks up regarding moral beliefs?

      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.