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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. DarthWoo

    Pfft, God's definition of marriage. You mean that definition that's been changing over the past several thousand years? The one that originally had men being able to marry multiple wives? The one that denied intermarrying among the races? Try as they might, the proponents of a sorry belief system that for so long held the world back are going to find that the proliferation of information and knowledge in this age will see their bigoted views reduced to the margins of history.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  2. Tulsa Joe

    Why do the conservatives want this to be an gay only thing?

    The CEO as said Chick-fil-a stands against divorced people too.

    A lot of hate in that company.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • usef

      he's probably against jerry sandusky too. is that "hate" as well???

      July 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Dave

      Sandusky's a criminal, gays aren't.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Tulsa Joe

      The CEO is actually a lady...you are a bit too conservative aren't you?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • jmsbois

      @ Tulsa Joe – the CEO is Dan Cathy, the son of the founder.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  3. 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 none of our elected officials knows what to do about the economy.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • usef

      absolutely!!! people need comic relief when in the midst of an economic depression! the liberal media must protect barry!!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  4. pwahy

    It's funny how people have become so brainwashed into accepting what is wrong but are against what is right, it's also funny how people can't tell the difference between difference of opinion and hatred.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • edweird69

      It's not just his OPINION! I don't care what he thinks of me!! He uses his wealth, his celebrity to promote hatred. GET REAL.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • pwahy

      Just because you don't support something doesn't mean you hate that group or person, for example I don't agree with Democrats but I don't hate them, I just don't agree with what they stand for is all, and I have no hatred for them. Same goes for gay people, I don't agree with what they do but I'm not going to hate them either, I have a friend who is gay and I don't hate him at all.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Tulsa Joe

      Hey speaking of brainwashed. Ever heard of religion?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • pwahy

      I know exactly what I stand for and I believe what I believe through faith and I know for a fact I was not brainwashed into believing, I chose to believe in Christianity all on my own, no one forced me to become a Christian it is a choice.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  5. Mike

    You can argue with what someone says, but you cannot argue with the Bible. If you try ... YOU ARE WRONG! The printed Word of God makes it very clear that Christ expects his followers to demonstrate certain behaviors. I refer you to Matthew 19:16-24, and the story of the rich young ruler. You can read for yourself, if you even own a Bible.

    And just as certain behaviors are expected from those who follow Jesus, there are certain behaviors that are condemned. Just for starters ... (1) Leviticus 18:22 - "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination." (2) Leviticus 20:13 - "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

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

      Bible = bs. Enough said.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • edweird69

      Leviticus also said bats were birds, and insects have 8 legs... dolt !

      July 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • dkm

      Mike, you can't pick and choose what you follow out of the bible....like in the old Testament. Ever eat shell fish? Wear clothes made out of more than one fabric? Know anyone who is divorced and then remarried (adulterer). The "printed" bible is man made – get a grip!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Dave

      Of course I own a "bible"...best emergency toilet paper imaginable.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • david esmay

      BIBLE= FICTION, I'll argue against fiction every time. Having a religion is a lot like havingapenis. It's fine to have one, it's fine to be proud of it. It's not fine to whip it out in public and wave it around. And it's really not fine to try and shove it down other people's throats.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Gaib

      Sure I can. There's no proof god exists. So a book based on his "words" doesn't mean anything

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Mike

      Hi -Mike...

      You Said: " You can argue with what someone says, but you cannot argue with the Bible. "

      First, yes...I know... I'm being hyper-literal here, but I wouldn't argue with an inanimate object such as a book.

      However... and knowing what I think you are attempting to say... the Bible is a book of what someone said. So, yes... I 'can' argue with it/ you...and anyone else who is unfortunately, as quite often the case committing the logical fallacy of 'circular reasoning' with a pinch of 'begging the question.'

      Your unwillingness to violate your 'appeal to a higher authority' fallacy (perceived higher authority) is what keeps you stuck in your closed belief system.

      You Said: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." 😯

      Trotting out the old OT Leviticus non-sense I see. So... why aren't you out putting them to death ?

      Careful with that OT stuff, you know there are several things in there where 'you' should be kil-led if you are not doing it what it says or or doing it and you shouldn't be... (according the your book).

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Michael

      Mike, this is the 2nd time you've posted this and you ignored me the first time so I'll just post it again..

      You're quoting the Holiness Code and NOT the Moral Code. The Holiness Code has nothing to do with morality is only meant as a guide book for the Jews, and only the Jews, to keep them ritually pure. The term translated to 'as with' means 'bed' every other time it's used in Leviticus and when Paul referred to this passage while writing the clobber passage in Corinthians he wrote 'male bed'. There were 3 beds back then; a woman's bed, a man's bed and a marriage bed. Leviticus 15 gives a long list of bed issues. So tell me, what would make more sense, seeing there were major bed issues back then, in a book about ritual guidelines to keep the Jews pure (ie, no shellfish, no pork, no cotton bends, no tattoos, no shaving, etc..) Here are the two versions:

      A man shall not lie with another male as with a woman.
      A man shall not lie with another male on a woman's bed.

      Gee, one of those sound like it's a guideline for a Holiness Code book (see Leviticus Chapter 15 please...)

      July 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Billy Sham

    I thought Billy Graham was dead. I had no idea he was still feeling well enough to spew hatred. You have to admire the old bigot's committment to being a dick.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  7. Mark

    Why are some many people in an uproar over chick-fil-a. The CEO simply stated a belief. If anyone has a problem with that then don't buy their product. He has a right to speak freely. Or does that right only apply to the left?

    July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • usef

      they're not. cnn just likes to promote anything that has to do with gays.....

      July 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • pwahy

      It's also apparently for this "discriminated" group to bash Christianity's beliefs but its not ok for them to disagree with theirs, talk about hypocrisy. Being gay is a choice and is not hereditary.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Dave

      Actually, he's spent years contributing to hate groups.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Mark

      What "hate" groups?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Dave

      Groups dedicated to legislating discrimination against American citizens.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • JKhur

      Family Research Council. Marriage and Family Foundation, Exodus International, etc. Why should LGBT citizens tolerate any individual or company that actively supports groups seeking to deny them their civil rights?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Mark

      So.. If you contribute to LULAC or NAACP I can consider you donating to hate groups. After all they don't do anything positive for me being a straight caucasian male. Come to think of it. Maybe we are getting pushed furthre and further down the scale. Anytime we open our mouth for anything it is hate, racism or prejudice.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Dave

      Neither of those groups seeks to legislate discrimination against Americans. Nice try.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  8. edweird69

    Isn't it easier for a came to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom? Isn't Billy Graham a mega millionaire, and so is the Chik Fil A dude. What hypocrites!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  9. Mei

    I support Chick-Fil-A and I applaud them to stick up for their religious beliefs. The gay minority (statistically less than 2% at the highest estimate) is trying to take away religious freedom in this country. They have managed to get jobs taken away from Christians and even sued them when they merely said they did "not agree with gay marriage". Indeed, I will continue to support Chick-Fil-A and it is shameful when in America people are boycotting a business because of their religious beliefs.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • edweird69

      Depriving any ONE person of their rights, is outrageous! So, in your opinion, since it's only, oh less than 2%, let's go ahead and screw them, it's just a few people.

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

      Mei, no one is trying to take away your religious freedom – get over the victimhood. What most rational people want is equality that is not defined by YOUR religious beliefs! Why should gay people suffer because of YOUR religion??? Are you wanting a theocracy (take your time – go look up the word, you might find references to Iran)?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Dave

      Really? See, I find bigotry and hatred justified by the prejudices of ancient subliterate desert barbarians to be shameful.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • bruce steo

      More power to you! I am with you 100% God bless you!

      July 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • david esmay

      I love it when oppressors try to portray themselves as victims. Ah, the American TalibanXKarl Rove. A Hybrid from their imaginary hell, turning the lives of others into a real one.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  10. ccb

    I wish that Rev. Graham and other Christian leaders,esp. white evangelicals, would speak up nationally against racism. I really believe that this sin is the most evil impacting sin in this country. All you have to do is read social media comments, listen to radio and tv personalities, etc., to see that we STILL have too many people who are racists(and are not afraid to admit it). The cause of Christ is NOT advanced when men and women of faith, esp. Christians, sit on the sidelines while the ugly head of racism keeps raising its evil head. We are NOT post-race as some want to believe. However, I will continue to believe that Christ will in fact raise up people who will "fight" this evil sin!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • david esmay

      I wish they would all be dumped into the dust bin of history. An amusing anecdote for future generations.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  11. usef

    stand and fight against the rainbow!!!!

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

      Swing your cross with all your might and still your kind will never defeat the power of the truth of light that is within the rainbow.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  12. Michael

    Wow, going through this thread it's apparent 'phones, who love to proclaim themselves as Christians, are 100% mentally unstable. They don't deal with facts via accredited studies at all. They are, literally, insane. You'd get a better debate out of a brick wall.

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

      The name "Michael" = "who is like unto GD?" Michael, at the Name of JESUS, your knee will bend and your tongue will confess to the glory of Gd the Father, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • david esmay

      Michael, Christine has been listening to the voices in her head way too long. Religion, the last refuge of people with no answers and no argument. Science is the antidote for the poison of religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  13. sdabby

    It's sad to see a pillar of US history trying to legislate morality after failing to convert people's hearts and minds over a lifetime.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • david esmay

      Nothing fails like prayer.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • usef

      why do you say that david?? did you try and "pray" the gay away???

      July 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  14. usef

    twinks are actually ticked off because a resturant owner opposes gay marriage!! wth!! are you serouis!!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  15. Freehold, New Jersey

    More Bigotry from American Protestants.. Why am I NOT surprised!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • usef

      because you're gay??

      July 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Name

    Billy, if you love God so much, why are you so afraid to die? Could it be you're afraid that He will some you somewhere warmer than what you're expecting?

    July 26, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • chamborde

      What a moron you are.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  17. Bgfvhu

    It's not hate it's moral hate. I also hate it that there are fat people. There are many different sins that are in the Bible people have just focused on ho.mos.exual one a lot.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  18. MattM

    The majority of pedophiles are gay. Gays who get married will adopt kids and molest them. This is why gay marriage is dangerous to our society. I used to watch Anderson Cooper all the time, now I get disgusted when I see him cause I know what he smokes when he goes home every night.

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

      What utter ignorance. I bet you think you are a Christian...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Michael

      Hate to break the news to you Matt but all the accredited research out there goes 100% against what you're saying.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • SLC-James

      Your even more stupid than I thought was even possible for one human being to be. Where do you get your facts from? A hillbillies guide to being an moron? Seriously.. Your post is the most ill advised, fact less piece of s-h-i-t I have ever read.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • GenericMan

      You assumed all of this because it fits your agenda.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  19. wayne

    Any business or business owner who donates money to a hate group intent upon discriminating against any of our fellow citizens should be tarred and chicken feathered !

    July 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • janey33

      Not a hate group. Just following God's laws instead of man's, as He requires. Just because you don't agree with something, it's hate?????

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

      Boston mayoral candidate in the making

      July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Frank

      This is not hate. A christian does not hate anyone but lives the Bible standard and the offended people are loved by God also but should repent and become Christians.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Janey...you are a human being., first and foremost...you should care for your fellow human rather than the dictates of a god you have been told about and have blindly accepted.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      frank..please....the veneer of civility with most religions is very thin.. Christians , Muslims hold gay folks in contempt for the most part and it is hard to disguise.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  20. glorydays

    What the hell makes these hateful, accepting people claim to be Christian???

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

      UNaccepting, sorry

      July 26, 2012 at 9:07 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.