home
RSS
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."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

"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. ForReal

    Awesome! Rev. Graham you are right! America does emulate Sodom and Gomorrah!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Michael

      You do realize the true sin of Sodom was inhospitality, right? Who's guilty of this one?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Was blind, but now I see

      @Michael, "You do realize the true sin of Sodom was inhospitality, right? Who's guilty of this one?"

      Yea. Those mean angels wouldn't even let the Nephilim in to say hello, for goodness sake!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Michael, Since Chick has not denied service to anyone, i would say it isn't them. My vote goes to the mayor of Boston and the alderman of Chicago who are trying to intimidate Chick from opening businesses there

      July 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  3. Michael

    It is too funny hearing all these people saying they're going to go out and buy Chik-Fil-A. The University of Florida proved the one link between the phobes was their lack of a real education which translates to a low paying job (last part is my input). Honestly, sure go out and buy Chik-Fil-A once or twice but we all know you guys are on a limited budget and can't afford much of anything at all. You forget, it's the LGBT community that has the pocket change. We're not only better educated than you phobes but we make more than you do.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Js

      Nice try with your LGBT statement – was that provided to you? Male heteros run the country and make the most money and believe it or not – we don't hate you.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Michael

      I never said "male heteros", I said "phobes". There's another study, done by the University of Georgia, which proved if you're a 'phobe there's an 80% chance you're a closet case. Funny how studies work...

      July 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  4. Matthew

    Liberals changed the defintion of the word 'gay' and now, they are trying to make the word 'disagree' equal hate.

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

      Let me guess Matthew... You didn't even make it through one semester of your local community college.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Matthew

      Graduated with a 4.0 GPA!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • ds

      those that assume they can determine education status of another on a posting forum – pretty much speaks to your brain power regardless of education level. GPA doesn't determine common sense and practical application either.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Michael

      Sorry Matthew but I am going to call bull on you. As for me trying to assume the education level of a 'phobe, would you like me to refer you to the study done by the University of Florida. It's insane Matthew is trying to say he's graduated with a 4.0 GPA when he hardly comes across as well educated. Some people speak in "simple english" and it's quite apparent he's one of them.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Matthew

      Michael is allowing his otheropinionphobia to make him become very judgmental.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Michael

      For example, let's take his original statement:

      Liberals changed the defintion of the word 'gay' and now, they are trying to make the word 'disagree' equal hate.

      ANYONE who graduated from college, much less high school, knows there would be no comma between 'now' and 'they'. The sentence doesn't even flow correctly. The "disagree equal hate" isn't correct. This is what we call 'simple english', where the person hardly has a grasp on the correct formation of a sentence.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Matthew

      Michael left the comma out after the word sorry in his previous post. I thought this was about Billy Graham and Chick-fil-A. I had no idea I was stepping into grammar class.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Michael

      Matthew, I didn't include a comma because it doesn't need one. Go type it in Word if you don't believe me. And, yes, you most certainly stepped into school when you tried saying you graduated with a 4.0. If that was the case there wouldn't be a need for a grammar class but it's too late. You've been schooled.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • JoJo

      How do you guys come with this logic. I could say, conservatives eat their young, and that would have the same validate that you said. It makes no sense at all.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Matthew

      Michael cracks me up! It does need a comma. There's a big difference in saying Sorry Michael (calling you sorry) and saying Sorry, Michael (apologizing to you). A computer program is not going to correct that because a program cannot judge your intent.

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

      Let's not forget that Matthew does not know how to spell definition either. A college grad knows how. My three year old knows how (if it makes you feel better Matthew, my three year old is very intelligent – don't feel too bad that she's smarter than you :).

      July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  5. SirT

    He's still alive? Hate has a long shelf-life.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Was blind, but now I see

      ??????????????????

      July 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  6. Metazip

    One does not need to compromise their values, or beliefs. They just don't need to come across as a bigot in doing so. It's also a matter of free will and letting people choose their lifestyle as the Cathy's have chosen theirs. Again, personal beliefs have no place in a business environment. Any other company with public exposure and Cathy would have been fired.

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

      Not exactly – Cathy can express his values and Chick Fil A does not discriminate against LGBTs – they are working there.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Metazip

      Yes, Cathy can express himself as a president of a private company, but he still looks like a bigot for doing it.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • billdeacons

      To me he looks like a man who walks his talk and puts his money where his mouth is. We need more like him

      July 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Metazip

      Well I like the old fashioned method of respecting someone based on their actions and deeds, not personal beliefs that comes out of their mouths...Cathy is a businessman, a 1%er if you will, who is not a preacher. I don't think we need any religious zealots in the public business world. Again, actions and deeds, not the silver tongue.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  7. Rob

    Great response. The business has the right to its opinions and to run its business the way it sees fit. Vote with your dollars – if you support Chick Fil A then eat there, if not take your cash somewhere else. I know I won't spend any of my vacation dollars in Chicago! But I will be having some Chick Fil A tomorrow!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Michael

      Vacation dollars??? It's a safe bet you can't even afford to go to Chicago.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • billdeacons

      The thing about Chicago is people with enough money to go there have enough sense not to.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Jen

      Don't come to Boston either! We don't want you!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Yeah we heard the mayor "Think like us or get out!" So sad to think your city once shone like a jewel in democracy's crown

      July 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  8. martin

    Billy sells theistic snake oil...Chick-fil-A sells assisted living chickens...

    July 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  9. sativa619

    NO religious prophet ever preached hate. All hateful words were sewn into religious texts by kings, dictators, and other rulers. People need to wake up to the history their texts contain. From the codes of the time to the translations and additions other rulers and cultures made. Being religious means you are manipulated. Christ never preched hate. Muhammad never preached hate. Joseph never preached hate. Buddha never preached hate. Krishna never preached hate. Odin never preached hate.... no gods or otherwise have ever done it. Why would you read a book and believe the lies to support ignorance?

    July 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Michael

      "You can safely assume you've created God out of your own image when it turns out He hates all the same people you do." – Anne Lamonte

      July 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  10. Fluttershy

    That pic is gonna give me nightmares for life!!! jayseus!!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  11. Zing

    Go Chick Fil A – as an American I respect your right to your beliefs and opinions and you make a good product.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  12. Zing

    hello – where are my posts? very innocent

    July 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  13. Chick-fil-A owner

    On behalf of Chick-fil-A owners everywhere I'd like to say "Thank You" for the media attention–business is booming.

    Eat Mor Chikin!

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

      Haha, SO true. Haters will hate while operators expand their fortune

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

      You really think this is going to benefit CFA in the long run?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • billdeacons

      were taking seven for lunch tomorrow

      July 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Sorry Michael "We're..." I know how you are about grammar

      July 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • norm62

      Ha! Not a chance. Never had your food, never will.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  14. Scottie

    I'm buying Chick-fil-A for my entire office tomorrow

    July 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  15. joe

    Not exactly sure why religious people feel the need to hate...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Zing

      What religious person is hating?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @joe

      Religion almost always creates an "us against them" mentality (I'm exempting Jaines from this). It just naturally leads to hate toward those who do not agree with them.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Zing

      @hawaii – hey brah go talk your lies and story on da beach with your mochiko chicken

      July 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Js

      @hawaii – id worry about your atate before worrying about those of faith. Your state is the epitome of laziness and blaming everyone else. Go beach brah!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • God is great

      Hate? Just cause they stand by what they believe in is now considered hate? Wake up!!! God will bless them. Just cause I say it's a sin and I don't believe in gay marriages that makes me a hater? It was God himself that created a man and a women. There was a purpose for this, CALLED FAMILY. He didn't create 2 men, cause why? It's not a family!!! You are suppose to love one another Bible says, but not in a gay way to sleep with them. That's why you have a wife or a husband. Wake up America! God will not put up with it much longer. He loves people, but can not stand sin. So, don't get 2 different things mixed and confused. And don't blame God when things go wrong.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Michael

      So "God is Great", Adam and Eve were married??? And they were such an ideal family especially when one son killed another. And can we talk about incest? I mean they were the only family right? Stuff it GIG.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Zing &Js

      Ohhh you sure got me. How can I compete with such in depth refutation of a point I made. You two must have graduated top of your class. Please, show more of your intelligent arguments so that we may all bask in their glory.

      @God is Great

      It's not the thoughts, it is the legislation and the actions taken on behalf of those beliefs, that directly contradict the constitution. I have no problem when people don't agree with the lifestyle, or if they even think it's the worst thing ever. But when they attempt to marginalize and oppose the equal treatment, under the law, of those minorities, then that's when it crosses the line. This country is not a simple "majority rules everything" country. We have a constitution for precisely this purpose.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Was blind, but now I see

      @Zing, "What religious person is hating?"

      Answer: "None."

      It's just that the ultra-tolerant crowd can't seem to tolerate anybody with a different opinion than them. And they wonder why we have a hard time taking them seriously?!?!?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • billdeacons

      So Hawaii you seem to be saying that the mayor of Boston and Chicago politicians do not have the right to stop CFA from opening new stores. Is that correct?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @billdeacons

      Yes that's exactly what I'm saying. It would be an eggregous violation of the first amendment. If they wanted to oppose it apart from their official office, then they have that right as a private citizen, but anything within their capacity as a mayor is overstepping themselves. I may not agree with CFA's policy, or their stance, but it's a private company with no ties to the government, and as long as they stay within the laws set down for privately held companies, then they have their rights.

      @Was blind

      Fred Phelps doesn't hate? Islamic extremists don't hate? Rick Perry, Pat Robertson, their followers, don't hate?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @billdeacons

      Were you expecting me to say that they have the right to stop CFA? If you were, they what would make you think that?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  16. marinedad05

    Is this guy still alive? It's only in this country do we give any currency to bigots and raving lunatics.

    He and his family have made millions by preaching, and that is their 'religion'.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  17. Blarg

    I'm glad that Chic-Fil-A has the right be filled with hate and bigotry, but I'm also glad that I have the right to disagree with him and spend my money elsewhere. No use in making a big deal about it.

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

      Not believing in h o m o lifestyle is not bigoted – quit trying to turn an apple into an orange

      July 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  18. Mark

    PROUD OF CHICK FIL A.....not even hungry but probably going to get a chicken sandwich after reading this article

    July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  19. Mister

    Okay. So who cares that a load of old nearly dead's are pitching a fit about people dropping their support of Chic-fil-a? It is not un-American to stop visiting an establishment because of their particular beliefs. In fact, it is quite American. It is called Capitalism, and if Chic-fil-a wants to show their bigotry to the American public, then the American public has a right to respond where it hurts them most, which is their bottom line. Personally, I will never visit them again, and I hope the company goes bankrupt. I do not need the CEO of a damn fast food restaurant telling me how to live my life!!

    July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Gatorman

      ........What a stupid comment to make. Sure don't know your Bible do you............?? There surely is a comparisom with today's America to the two sinful Bibleical cities. Yes, they were destroyed after a time. Chic-fil-a Pres. takes a STAND.
      Why do you think his business has thrived so well...............partly because he takes and gives his employees SUNDAY off.
      But...you would not understand this principal either.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  20. McCave

    Boo Hoo Hoo. YOu don't think our way of life is fabulous so you must be a hate filled bigot! We're going to boycot you (even though you haven't actually discriminated against anyone!)

    July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43
Advertisement
About this blog

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.