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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. chris

    Shocker. Is anyone really surprised? How is this news?

    July 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • usef

      surprised this article is on cnn?? of course not, if it's gay we report it!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  2. usef

    do you timmy take little jerry.....

    July 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tim620

      "I do" as long as "little Jerry" is my adult male boyfriend and we are in a long term monogamous relationship.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  3. janey33

    Was blind, but now I see...you are correct, God hates sin and loves the sinner. But the sinner MUST repent of their sin and not sin anymore.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • sybaris

      So your god hates what it created.

      Be very careful how you respond

      July 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Michael

      Being gay isn't a sin but you're trying to make it sound as if you don't sin anymore.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • janey33

      Michael...YES, being gay IS a sin. Try readiing the Bible the way it is wrietten instead of interpreting it the way you want it to be. And JESUS said go and sin no more. I don't think that anyone can actually do that. We all sin in one way or another.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • JWT

      The "sins" of the bible do not apply to people that do not follow that particular brand of religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Whatever you say JTW

      July 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Bobby

      Janey I have never committed a sin.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  4. yannaes

    Never eaten there, but will start now! It is about time someone stand up for a higher MORALITY.

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

      I bet you can't even define morality without having to look it up.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • ds

      @notheism – I bet you can't do anything but reply to others that they are wrong or stupid or sucky, etc. Your abilities seem quite limiting. You post like a 12 yr old trying to learn to debate.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • dawga2010

      I love the fact that whenever polls are taken it is the state of the Economy that is the priority of the public, however Gay Marriage and Abortion always creep into the mix.
      Anyone else think that these issues are brought to the surface solely to distract us all from the fact that no elected official currently in office knows what to do about the economy.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • nottolate

      Me too

      July 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  5. Tully

    I LOVE YOU, BILLY! You handsome devil, you!!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  6. Was blind, but now I see

    A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

    1 Timothy 3:2

    July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • sybaris

      " If you want to get rich, you start a religion. "

      L. Ron Hubbard

      July 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. FTR

    @sybaris – boo hoo? I think its the LGBTs that are always crying about how mistreated they are and how everyone who does not believe the way they do is bigoted which is the biggest logical fallacy (to quote Notheism). And for LGBTs to want to control the beliefs of others is nothing less than tyrannical

    July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • MrApplesauce

      It's false Christians that try to stop people from doing things that have no effect on others. Of course, you could mean that you feel your soul is in danger if you don't stop gays from getting married and in that case you are more a Christian than and American and you need to pick up your gun and force a Theocracy on us all.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Really? Are they trying to keep you from marrying?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Tim620

      Its not about LGBT's controlling anybody's beliefs. It is about having equal rights. We should have the right to get married. If you don't like it, you don't have to attend the ceremonies and you don't have to attend churches that support gay marriage. It is as simple as that. How would me marrying another man hurt your marriage?

      Jews can't eat pork, but they are not trying to pass a law banning others from eating pork. Gay marriage should be the same way. It should be a church issue, not a government issue. If you don't like gay marriage, don't attend a church that supports it.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Michael

      It gets really old seeing how you guys try to boycott someone new every single week but then cry foul when the tables are turned.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  8. Yessir

    Good Chickin – I don't care what their position on gay marriage is. They'll continue to get my complete support AND business!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Hez316

      Agreed. If you strongly disagree with them, don't frequent their business. My guess is their business I'll increase

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Michael

      Of course they're business is going to increase. But let's see how they do in the long run. If you nor them were too worried about it then why are you guys freaking out???

      July 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  9. SSampson

    God defined marriage, eh??? – Well... even if you believe iin the imaginary being... the 'Bible' was written by men over many years... in some cases we aren't really sure who even wrote the books that were chosen to be in it (there were a bunch of writings not included)....

    So – the fact is... the Imaginary dude said nothing about it.... but if you take the book literally – then you can't forget the part about not judging others... plus a bunch of other stuff about being 'nice' to all people regardless of anything....

    But hey – stick your head in the sand and listen to the bigoted fundamentalists like this fool...

    July 26, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • FTR

      Sorry – your inflammatory "bigot" cry is overused and illogical. People are not bigots for believing diferently than you. Bigots discriminate and you calling someone a bigot when they are not is also practicing discrimination.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Hez316

      If we make no judgements at all there must therefore be no right or wrong. Everyone simply does what is right or wrong in their own eyes

      July 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • billdeacons

      S S You read the Bible I take it and your synopsis is "Be nice to one another"? LOL I think you are confusing the good book with Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

      July 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • janey33

      Yes, God said everything about it, to the Christian believer. And you better take a better look at that "judging others" part. That's one of the most misquoted parts of the Bible. And God tells us to hate sin. Christians follow God's laws. And just because someone doesn't agree with your beliefs, they are a bigot. WRONG!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Ramsey

      Actually FTR, believing differently than someone else and depriving the people of freedoms others enjoy BASED ON those beliefs actually is bigotry. Replace "gay" with "black" and watch what happens. INSTANT BIGOT! Enjoy your bronze age story book, the rest of us will go ahead and live in the 21st century.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @billdeacons,

      excepting your attempted reductio ad absurdum, is there is a substantial difference between 'love thy neighbor' and 'be excellent to one another'?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Stand up for what you believe in

    If you don't stand up for what you believe in then America is lost!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  11. MrApplesauce

    He isn't dead, yet? Methuselah 2.

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

      yeah, he's not gay and didn't get aids.....

      July 26, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Tim620

      @usef. I'm gay and didn't get AIDS either.

      Believe it or not, almost half of people with HIV worldwide are women. About 1/10 of cases are children under 15. HIV/AIDS is not just a gay disease.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  12. sybaris

    Oh poor poor chrisitians, they're so persecuted and forced to accept what they don't want.

    Meanwhile we have:

    Bibles in every motel room
    God on our money
    Moments of silence (prayer) before public events
    Christian cable networks 24/7
    Discounts on insurance for being christian
    Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
    Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
    God in The Pledge of Allegiance
    Televangelists 24/7
    Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Brainwashing School (VBS) for your children
    Federally recognized Christian holiday
    Radioeveangelists 24/7
    Religious organizations are tax free
    75% of the population claims to be Christian
    National day of prayer
    God in the National Anthem
    etc.

    Boo freakin hoo

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

      And if it was left up to the LGBTs – we would have none of it and have some sort of communist police state becasue people having different beliefs and ideas is bigoted and must be controlled.

      yep – boo hoo – ain't gonna happen

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

      If you don't have a cross burned into your forehead, you aren't a good Christian... wait, or was that a 666? Err.. whatever, you need to be marked to show you are a proper Christian American.

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

      Well some people are too spoiled and want full control.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Gadflie

      ds, are they trying to keep you from marrying? Oops, not hardly. So, who is persecuting whom?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • sybaris

      ds, at least review a list of logical fallacies before you post

      Google is your friend, don't let laziness make you look ignorant

      July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • NoTheism

      ds, special pleading... Your "logic" sucks.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • ds

      @nothesim – you have a great knack for telling people their logic sucks. You are very talented but you should try to produce some logic of your own in this forum. I doubt you can.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • NoTheism

      @ds, it's too easy to argue about these things. What do you expect me to say anyway, that you have no basis for your claims? How would I demonstrate it other than pointing out how your statements are invalid/untrue? Once I've done that, I've showed you that you don't have good arguments to support what you believe.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  13. Wholly Mary

    Time to move on old man.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  14. Jeff--Tacoma

    America is a wonderful country. Chick-Fil-a has the right to voice their beliefs...and I believe they have gotten their last penny from me.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • ds

      No loss for Chick Fil A – plenty of supporters.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Come August 1st they will be the the most popular resturant in America. August 1st is Chik-Fil-A appreciation day. A start at combating the gays and liberal left in their efforts to boycott and destroy a business because of ideology. Eat at a Chik-Fil-A next Wednesday.

      The First Amendment is being violated by the Liberal Left (again). If what you say or believe doesn't pass the Liberal Police, then you are to be persecuted.

      I don't really like Chik-Fil-A, but I am purchasing lunch for my entire company from Chik-Fil-A next Wednesday.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  15. usef

    the vast, vast, vast majority of HUMANS are against rump ranger marriage.....

    July 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @usef

      Pure 'Argumentum ad Populum' ... or 'Argumentum ad Numerum' logical fallacy.

      You 'fail'...

      Peace...

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

      usef has now become Peace2All's beeeeotch

      July 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Michael

      The verifiable fact is most Americans support gay marriage. It's BULL trying to debate with you guys since you don't deal with facts nor reality.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Yes it's been verified in 32 stae elections now... oh wait... never mind

      July 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  16. ds

    Good to see so many people posting their support for Chick Fil A. This is America nad we have the rights and freedoms to believe what we want and serve a good prioduct that people want. Is the LGBT community pushing for Communism now?

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

      do you know what a non-sequitur is?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • ds

      Nice try English prof but my english is very direct and my thoughts have a logical flow of concern. You obviosly don't understadn the dynamics of debate. Get back to grading papers; that is if you even have a job.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @ds

      " Is the LGBT community pushing for Communism now? "

      Holy 'non-sequitur' fallacy !

      Yikes ! 😯

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • NoTheism

      ds, perhaps you believe as much, but that doesn't mean that your arguments aren't packed with logical fallacies.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • sybaris

      ds pwnd

      July 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Keith

      It's not a non-sequitur. If a government controls businesses based on their opinion, then, (while it's not technically communism) it's certainly not capitalism. Thus the LGBT community rooting for communism comment.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  17. usef

    gay marriage..what a freakin joke....

    July 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • mighty Steve

      you and your kind are the joke - wanting to impose your values and views on everyone else

      July 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • SLC-James

      go f-u-c-k yourself usef!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Tim620

      So...how is it a joke? I seriously support gay marriage. Its no joke to me.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • NoTheism

      You are correct, crazy person. Check out the Harvard prayer study!

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

      Will it change filter on my furnace?

      July 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Tim620

      Who said anything about atheism? This article wasn't about atheists....

      July 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • just sayin

      It never hurts to point out how useless atheists are. God bless

      July 26, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • mariner v

      Billy Graham live at the Chic fil-A, venues change but the message remains the same. "On Tuesday, Graham leveled deep criticism at the United States. He compared the country to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Biblical cities synonymous with sin." So much for Graham's patriotism and american exceptinalism. I guess he's not a true believer.

      He says, "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." If god wants to comment on Chic fil-A I'm sure he can comment anytime he can find an open mike, like Graham here.

      The problem is.......he's an absentee landlord! He never shows up! We have to wait for people like Graham to run interference.
      Pure BS.

      At the height of religious indoctrination in the United States courtesy of Graham and company, the world was at war, so the world was out of control not due to lack of religion but because lets face it, men are stupid. God didn't help a whole lot. In fact he has been an MIA for so long, its no wonder that they don't talk about Zeus with the same reverance.

      I can only assume that Graham is getting free chicken for his services by supporting Chic fil-A over the gays. Are we going to be able to have a serious discussion about the rights of gays and the prejudices directed toward them and pray away the gay, while chomping away at a chicken stand? Say it isn't so!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  19. eat any human flesh lately?

    The moral low ground is found again. Way to stoop Billy.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • woweverynametaken

      News flash: Jesus not a vegetarian. Remember the broiled fish he ate after resurrection? You may have a point though... Unfortunately, I can't find any mention of him eating Sonny's Real Pit BBQ so you may want to avoid that establishment.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Okay

      news flash to your news flash. you're taking the bible literally, which means you believe moses was 500 years old and built a ship that would have to be over 20 miles in size and was able to capture all the animals even on the undiscovered continents and even the undiscovered species which are about 90%

      July 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  20. Colin Morgan

    That's a great photo of Billy Graham. I can count the pores on his face.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:27 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.