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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. NoTheism

    "Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word" Who says? Why should it be so? What is god's word? Who's god is/are he/she/it/they? Is/are this/these god(s) even real?

    July 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • edweird69

      The Xtian god is pure evil, and American's worship him. That's why society's intentions are good, but their actions are evil.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • usef

      old ed's a future serial killer.....

      July 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • edweird69

      And you're first on my list !

      July 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  2. Ms

    I have just as much authority as Billy Graham. I just don't have as many people who believe it.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • billdeacons

      You are correct

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  3. 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 9:02 pm |
    • edweird69

      Go ahead! You're either with us, or against us. I hope you choke on the sandwiches. Anyone who would condone depriving law-abiding, tax-paying citizens their rights, is a self-righteous jerk!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • NoTheism

      "The First Amendment is being violated by the Liberal Left (again)" what makes you say so, could you be more specific??

      "I don't really like Chik-Fil-A, but I am purchasing lunch for my entire company from Chik-Fil-A next Wednesday" but you support a business because of ideology... isn't that a contradiction?

      How about some logical consistency, pal.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @WDinDallas

      Hi -WDinDallas...

      " A start at combating the gays and liberal left in their efforts to boycott and destroy a business because of ideology."

      The right-wing zealots do it all the time... that's one of your major tools is to boycott anyone/business that is not in line with the Bible and God's word, yes...?

      " The First Amendment is being violated by the Liberal Left (again). "

      Maybe I missed something... How specifically is the 1st amendment being violated by the Liberal Left ?

      " If what you say or believe doesn't pass the Liberal Police, then you are to be persecuted."

      Isn't interesting that someone is calling the Liberal's "persecuters" when the christian right-wing zealots whole world-view, religion, and philosophy is based on a dogma of... "persecution."

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

      LOL...!!! Are you f-ucking kidding, -WDinDalls ? 😯

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • billdeacons

      The first amendment is being viollated by the mayor of Boston and a chicago Alderman who are trying to keep CFA from opening new businesses by reason of their beliefs. Read the news. The legal scholars, including the ACLU have already weighed in in favor of CFA

      July 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  4. dave

    I wish Billy Graham was NOT RIGHT but he is...shame on all of you freedom seekers without responsibility...

    we are reaping what we sow and it will only get worse...

    I have not eaten at Chick-fil-A but you now have a new customer...thank you for standing up for your principles.. where are the rest of those who are afraid of offending...political correctness/cnn/obama/aclu/ etc etc..dont let them bully you

    July 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • edweird69

      Hope you choke on the sandwich, then pray for god to save you. Your prayer will be unheard, because your god fails to exist, or is asleep on the job.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • billdeacons

      edweird says "Accept my ways or be cursed unto death"

      July 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • edweird69

      Xtians have been committing atrocities throughout history... I'm fighting back!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      how do you believe gays to be avoiding responsibility?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  5. John80

    Business 101: Don't play politics and chase away large groups of paying customers.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • usef

      "large groups" of gays eat at chick fil a??

      July 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Morgan

      Large groups?

      You mean the whopping 5%?

      I venture to bet this will draw in at least 20% of those who have NOT been to a chick fil A before.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  6. lol

    Billy Graham? Looks more like the Crypt Keeper to me.

    I wonder if he has cold clammy hands too.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  7. Republican zombie

    It's Chick-fil-A, not Dick fill's A*

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • dkm

      Oh my, elementary school is out!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  8. ja-coffalotte

    Billy Graham is a joke, get in a box already.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Judy

      You'll probably be in a box before him... dumb a**

      July 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • usef

      if he was gay he'd have aids and would be in a box "already"

      July 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • janey33

      You are the joke. Billy Graham will be in Heaven and will never have to put up with you.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  9. janey33

    dawga2010...I think you are on to something.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  10. jesusfollower

    Good!! I am glad Billy Graham spoke up for Chick-fil-A. Anything that goes against the bible is truth. You cannot sugarcoat or bend the laws of the bible.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      anything that goes against the bible is truth?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • janey33

      What??? The Bible IS truth, to a Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • dkm

      I'm a Christian and I can say without a doubt that you don't know what you are talking about!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • dkm

      my message was meant for jesusfollower by the way

      July 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  11. Donald

    Great job Mr. Graham and Mr Cathy! To all Americans... continue to stand for family and life values.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • jesusfollower

      Amen!!

      July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • NoTheism

      as an atheist, and straight person who has nothing against gays, I believe in family values and the value of human life. As a matter of fact, I believe that strong, loving families are extremely important, even if there are gay parents involved. I also believe that human life is invaluable, and that is why parents should have the ability to make sure that when they do bring a new person to this earth, they can take care of them, and that they can offer them the best possible.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      standing up for life values? like equality?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Donald

      " To all Americans... continue to stand for *family and life values*."

      Interesting how people like you feel the need to hijack certain terms, that infer for example that non-hetero's are somehow against *family* and *life values*

      How is that exactly ? It would be hilarious... your lack of awareness, in what you say... if it were not so terribly unaware and biased. 🙁

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • huhb

      Not to mention the fact that "man" and "woman" are family LABELS, not family VALUES.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  12. unblvble

    i dont approve gay and lesbians. so what . i can open my business in any state or city in USA. Who are these mayors who says no. after their term they are history. My busniness is here to stay.

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

      99.9% of americans don't agree with gay marriage...the liberal media just happens to be where the other .1% are!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @usef

      And where are the studies and surveys that support your stupid assertion?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      i don't think the gays or lesbians crave your approval. they merely want equal rights. you can continue to disapprove to your heart's content. and your church, if any, does not have to do any ceremony they feel would be displeasing to their god. however, the government cannot discriminate.....equal protection under the law.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  13. boyd26

    jerry sandusky is a molesting pedophile ..he could be straight or gay. being gay does not mean you are a pedophile but being usef does mean you're an idiot

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

      Sandusky was straight, as in he was attracted to adult women and not to adult men.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • usef

      nope, he's gay...looks a-lot like an older version of anderson cooper.....

      July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Judy

      Gays never admit pedophiles are gay. Gays are only good, upstanding people who never, ever do anything wrong... especially with their bodies. Oh, they never call people names either.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Michael

      OK guys, find me just one MAN Sandusky was with. Remeber, a MAN, not a BOY. Funny, I could have sworn he was married to a woman.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  14. MrApplesauce

    American Evangelicals want to force a Theocracy on the rest of Americans shrouded in the false cloak of the premise that the Founders wanted a Christian nation.

    They will end up taking up arms to force it on us as they put the Cross before the Flag.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  15. iBod

    How would America feel if a business came out against African Americans and donated to causes in support of segregation?

    You call that a right?

    Let me tell you something: Here in the 21st Century, it isn't about treating your customers unfairly in front of their face. No, no, no, that is too direct! Today, it is about donating their cash to causes some may see as discriminatory. But, make no mistake, when cash flows against the rights of certain individuals, that is discrimination. It is unfathomable to believe Chick-Fil-A is putting their profits to these anti-gay rights organizations. I don't care if this was done by the President on his own terms with his own cash; but when his views are belonging to the company and that company is making donations against the rights of individuals, there is a huge issue at hand.

    I am not surprised by Billy Graham taking defensive action; but I highly applaud the Mayor of Boston and Mayor of Chicago for refusing to allow a Chick-Fil-A in their cities.

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

      Linking gay rights to the civil rights struggles of African Americans is disengenuous at best

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

      Civil rights are civil rights Billy, deal with it. Who cares if you don't want to deal with it, our courts however view LGBT civil rights in the SAME EXACT manner as civil rights based on skin color.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • edweird69

      Well said !!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • edweird69

      @billdeacons - since when does not civile rights = civil rights ? The comparison is exactly the same. If A=B then B=A.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • janey33

      One has nothing to do with the other. And Chick-fil-a's owners are Christians. It is a privately owned chain and they have the right to their beliefs just as you have the right not to eat there if you don't want to.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • iBod

      You should have saved your cries.

      Civil rights are still civil rights - rights owed to the people. You don't think there was a battle for blacks to marry whites? In some cases, there still are! The question is a fair question to expose the hypocrites.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Goodpoint

      I agree totally. We can't forget our past. 100 years ago interracial marriage wasn't allowed. Would we still support a business that provided funding for that? I don't and won't eat at Chik-fil-a. PS.. when are we going to see groups forming to protest divorce among male/female couples since it is against the bible? Oh.. wait.. that part is ok to ignore as long as we don't let the GAYS ruin marriage.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      in what respect, billdeacon?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  16. DARJA

    I have never hear his stand on gun use. As a Christian, Jesus never carried a gun but relied on the word of God to live accordingly. Jesus stopped one of the disciples from cutting the ear of a Roman soldier. I do know Jesus said live in the world but not be of the world. Does this mean that Rev. Graham would not condone recreation use of guns as well as for protection? Does Rev. Graham believe Christian should rely on God to protect one from harm. How come he doesn't take a stand on issues such as gun control vs gun rights?

    July 26, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  17. usef

    shouldn't this topic be in the entertainment or comedy section....

    July 26, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • twinelms

      You won't think it funny when the fires of he'll overtake you.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  18. boyd26

    religious people scare the crap out of me ... christians are proving themselves to be whackos ... bible thumpers should be in an insane asylum ... billy graham is a loser.

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

      men who stick their sausages in other mens poop shoots scare me...

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

      Usef, you just proved the point perfectly. Phobes sound like they're mentally unstable. You could go through this comment section, delete the parts that make your stance obvious and you could still tell who was on which side by the intellect and mental stability that shines through their postings.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • janey33

      Christians are followers of Jesus, who teaches love and forgiveness. But there are rules to follow. And Billy Graham is far from being a loser. He will spend eternity in Heaven.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Michael

      Hey janey, find me just one quote from Christ which leads you to believe being gay is a sin.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      usef: think about it a lot, do you?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      janey: i thought god was the one who decides who will be in heaven. are you purporting to be god?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  19. GAW

    I thought the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was a lack of hospitality.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @GAW

      LOL 😀

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • twinelms

      Have you actually read the Bible account? Try Genesis 18-19 then do a word search on the New Testament references, especially 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans1.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  20. usef

    jerry sandusky..don lemmon...anderson cooper..birds of a feather......

    July 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • boyd26

      and yet you suck more than anybody

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

      Usef Isn't it time for your daily Ramadan fast to end? Your lack of food is driving you mad.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Michael

      Sandusky was straight – married to a woman. Never had a relationship with a MAN but of course you can't figure out the difference between a 10yo boy and a 30yo man.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Sandusky was a suppressed closet gay -- like all pedophiles.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @WDinDalls

      And, Jerry Sandusky was probably a *Muslim* too ! LOL ! 😀

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:19 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.