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. Jason Reeser

    Thanks to CNN for adding the political angle to this, attempting to smear Graham's defense with dubious suggestions of political motives. I think Graham is pretty clear he is defending friends. How ignorant to ask someone like Balmer to explain why Graham is doing this. But I expect nothing less from CNN.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  2. Jon

    Christianity had ruined America.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • DREAM15X

      Hmm, I always felt it was the other way around, and as an American I do have the right to be a Christian with a belief system.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Huebert

      I have faith that America is stronger than that. In fifty years I think that religion will be a non-issue.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • papa smurf

      People like YOU ruin America....I am TIRED of being called a bigot....I have gay friends that I love very much, but as a Christian I do not believe in Gay marriage.....

      July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Russ

      Who are you to say you "Don't believe in gay marriage"? You are nobody, and your opinion means nothing in the long run. But, I guess you will continue posting here, thinking that what you say will have some importance. WRONG. Gay marriage is here to stay. Learn to accept it.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • TracyinMO

      When God was central to our country we were a force to be reconned with. Now that we are pushing God out of our live look where we are. Our country is falling apart. I'm thrilled to see a company take a stand against Gay marriage.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jeff

      @TracyinMO: How do you figure? Our most prominent Founding Fathers were Deists, not Christian. We've actually lost or tied more wars than we've won and our economic prosperity has been on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged. Or have you never read about the Robber Barons? Uncontrolled capitalism caused the Great Depression – where was our Godly morality then? Then we have eugenics programs, testing of chemicals and radiation on unsuspecting civilians, slavery, women having no right other than to shut up and stay in the kitchen, children working in factories... I'm not seeing where we were doing all that well when we were supposedly so Godly.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • yardbird1

      Seriously??? Christianity began the foundation of America. It is how our laws were enacted in order to give people basic freedoms and rights. You need to go back to school and take history again.

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

      Oh, puleeze!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  3. torqueflite

    White Citizens Councils in the South used the Bible to defend segregation, too. Practice your faith in your church and do unto others, meaning don't use your religion to deny civil rights (including marriage) to any class of American citizens.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Then don't use your political persuasion to block business. Actually I think one is illegal and the other is not. Care to guess which?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • yardbird1

      Nice way to distort history- Rich white people did this, in order to make money. The average white person couldn't afford slaves, etc. In addition, slavery was in all states in the beginning. When the land proved to be less fertile, people from the North moved to the South with their slaves and money. Quit using small pieces of information to create your agenda. And last, the Quakers, a Christian group, was heavily involved in stopping that type of thinking. They were a huge part of the underground railroad and propagating the belief that everyone is equal. It was good Christians that stopped segregation and slavery.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  4. n

    Billy used to be nice man and preached God's love not anymore now him and his son only preaches who they like and the rest of the people are evil. They live a lavish life because idiot people give they a lot of money. Shame on u Billy for preaching wrong things.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • DREAM15X

      He is not preaching the wrong things, people want to change God's will and direction to fit they're agendas.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Bill P. Payne

      Dr. Graham has made his money via book sells and being the leader of an organization that employes 1000s of people. He has earned his money. Additionally, he used to be a revival preacher who preached on hell as he invited people to repent and turn to Jesus. The old Graham is the mild Graham. Why do people like you misrepresent Graham and people like him. In truth, as a class of people, gays have disproportionate access to wealth and power. They are single people with higher levels of education. If I did not support 4 dependents, I would be very rich. Stop having class envy, support liberty, and read one of Graham's biographies. I own three of them.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Tim620

      @DREAM15X. I agree, people have misread and misinterpreted passages in the Bible to fit their anti-gay agenda.

      P.S. I think you meant "their", instead of "they're".

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

    I think gays are the most hipocrate persons on this earth. They are only concern with there rights not giving a crap of the rights of other pleople. Let's remember out history and how our four father help build this great county. But now Gays want to destroy it with there way of life.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Huebert

      What rights of yours are hom.ose.xuals threatening to take away?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Bobby

      His right to learn how to spell?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Jon

      Your ignorance is endorsed by the fact that your ability to write in English is horrible.

      And our 'forefathers', as I assume you meant, had very different beliefs than you do. I really hope this comment is a troll, if not, you're not doing your fellow Christians a favor.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      My right to eat chicken in Boston and Chicago

      July 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Bobby

      It was the mayor of Boston who said that the wouldn't have any Chick-Fil-A's. Is he gay? If not then it is not gay people keeping you from eating chicken.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • yardbird1

      Huenert- when people threaten to disallow a business to function based on their own beliefs, they are taking away their religious beliefs and freedom of speech,

      July 26, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Tim620

      I"m not sure how gay marriage will destroy this country. Maybe he is referring to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrSkmpHp_T0

      July 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Tim620

      @yardbird. Believe me, Chick-Fil-A is not a victim in all of this...

      July 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  6. felipphi ruiz

    Billy Graham as part of the circus of actual elections speaks just to figure out, is no the same "counsel" for previous presidents involved in wars? did the same Jesus and disciples?, did they involved in politics and got wages because the guidence on religious matters on Rome? no! the gospel not describe anything like that.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  7. europeanTraveler

    I am hungry! I am hungry to hear more from those solid, law-abiding, honest, Bible-loving, Christ-loving, individuals and business owners-to take a stand and express their beliefs and opionions freely just like the leftists do on a continual basis! I am hungry to hear someone who runs an honest business and is closed on Sunday because the Bible says this is a day of rest and can FREELY express their honest opinions! HURRAY!! Also, I love Chick-fil-A.....they have a delicious line of products and if you haven't yet tried some...you are missing out on some really good food! So, if you are a 'believer' too...show an honest business some support by buying their products! GO CHRISTIANS!

    July 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Bobby

      He expressed his opinion, and now he has been called on it. That is how freedom of speech works. It sounds like what you want is for people to not call you a bigot when you discriminate against gay people.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • gman

      Don't forget that if your christian and your beliefs are not in line with everyone else your a bigot.

      Because its not Freedom of Speech any more...Its Freedom of Speech as along as I don't upset some special interest group, or group of people because I don't believe like they do, or act like they do, or live like they do. There is no such thing as Freedom of Speech in America any more. It's Freedom to be be called a bigot / racist / non-american because I don't believe like the rest of the sheep.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Please outline for the class how anyone's 1st Amendment rights have been violated.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      midwest – -Meanwhile, Chicago's alderman Joe Moreno is joining in the anti-Chick-fil-A fray, saying that if the company does not come up with an anti-discrimination policy, he'll block plans to put a restaurant in his district.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • midwest rail

      I had no idea Moreno was also a member of Congress.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • yardbird1


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


      July 27, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  8. Fabiola

    I feel so much respect for Chick-Fil-A not every business or public person is brave enough to stand for what they believe especially if it's about God. I pray for more people like them, that don't care about what everybody says but speak the truth, God's truth. And yes, whether we like it or not we're turning if we're not already into Sodom and Gomorrah 🙁

    July 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Then go eat some chicken!

      July 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Bill Deacon

    Hey it was just a question. Thanks for playing though.

    You and Sam are the ones who turned the discussion into a debate over the quality of the observable and verifiable evidentiary sociological implications of generalized political affiliation in relation to spiritual and cognitive self identification.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • yardbird1

      Full of sound and fury- signifying nothing= Shakespeare

      July 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  10. TJ

    I heard they have a new intolerance chicken sandwich on the menu and when you enter the door the chime spouts out gay slurs like the museum of tolerance. Religious people are so funny.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  11. jr

    whether or not you agree or disagree with president of the Chick-fil-A. The franchisee are the ones paying the price for his comments. the president of chick-fil-A has a duty to the store owners not to hurt or damage their stores sales or reputation. no matter which side of the issue your own.

    the president of chick-fil-A has a fiduciary duty to the company and the franchise owners. if i was a franchise owner I will call for the immediate removal of the president and I would request money damages for loss sales.

    I call on all chick-fil-a franchise owners to demand this guys resignation and file suit for breach of fiduciary duty and duty of care in court for lost sales.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What if sales rise?

      July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • John

      by the way, the CFA in my neighborhood said their sales were up this week! HA

      July 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • craig

      Are you serious? The franchises only exist because of the originating business.He only stated that he believes in the biblical meaning of marriage, one man one woman. He certainly did not say he was discriminating against anyone. It is his belief, period.don't add words to what he said.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Larry

      To Junior: Junior said that the individual owners are the ones who are suffering. There are no individual owners. The stores are all company stores who hire managers who hire employees. So his comments are said on behalf of the company. Love the sandwiches, if only all fast food restaurants do it their way. Employees are consistently polite and helpful. The senior Mr. Cathy used to visit every store and do so on Saturday nights and urged employees to go to church on Sunday. A man who practices what he believes! No one is turned away. Gays and lesbians, you can get some good food there and even get a thank you for stopping by. No, I am not an employee. Just someone who agrees that marriage is between a man and a woman.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Kay


      July 27, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Indefensible, I say! Anyone who would serve waffle fries (as food) deserves to be dragged through the muck.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Huebert

      Agreed. Everyone knows that curly fries are the one true fry.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      TT, that's the funniest thing I ever heard you say LOL

      July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Sam Yaza

    i thought billy didn't make political statements,.. greatest lie ever speaking of Lie

    the word lie in

    And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. levi 20:13

    actually mean lie not lay you know men don't lie to men but its ok to lie to women
    another word gossiping with men is punishable by death


    July 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      Hello Neo-Atheist Evangelist Troll.
      Nice evangelism video for your religion of Neo-Atheism

      July 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      hello mister MennoKnight i'm a pagan,.. i just think Betty is a prophet of humanity

      July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • KMar

      That's AWESOME!!! Sharing it:)

      July 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • david esmay

      Love the video, have you seen Redneck Ronnie's " Your Religion Might Be B.S." ? Check it out.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • MyManDarwin

      Greatest video ever.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  14. Mr Dalloway

    Why some people would let a book, the Bible, that is flush with inconsistencies become so important in their lives is inconceivable to me.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Fabiola

      Because of something called faith, God made that book to guide on what is good and bad,

      July 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Michael

      it's because it's not flush with inconsistencies. However much of the world is flush with ignorance over the bible.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      So bats are birds? The earth is a circle on four pillars stationary in the cosmos with the sun going around it?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Mg

      Considering we are finding civilizations predating our known history by 30k years the bible and especially the new testament are way to absolute to be taken seriously. Don't need the bible for right and wrong. And the faith thing is personal. When we finally find out who seeded us I thing there will be many disappointed people who wasted a lot of time.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • yardbird1

      It isn't filled with inconsistencies, if you really study it and understand it. People have been trying prove it as false for centuries and all they do is prove it as true. People like to twist words, etc to say they are inconsistent.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Kay


      July 27, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • reality check

      Wow! Judging by these posts, we have a lot of crazy people running around in this country. Like Kay for example.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  15. LBNative

    Billy Graham is a hypocrite "has been". Soon to be forgotten like Jerry Falwell. There is no defense for being discriminatory and prejudicial. It will no longer be tolerated in the USA. Gay marriage can only strengthen the family unit.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Fabiola

      Discriminatory?? Intolerant? I believe Chick-Fil-A were the ones who were discriminated and not allowed to do business at that intolerant city.... Ironic

      July 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  16. junior

    Do I discriminate? Of course. I am for discerning what brings about LIFE from what brings about Death. And I choose Life.

    Fides et Ratio

    July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  17. Seamusgirl

    Bobby may I have the verses from the Bible that say "Slavery is great! Keep slaves! etc." Jesus said for servants to obey their masters since they were their earthly authority. As in today we are supposed to obey our employers. Get it. No, probably not. Anyway the comparison is not valid.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  18. billy

    Chck-fil-a food sucks just like the bigoted Moroms. Go get 7 wives and leave the gays/lesbians alone it's 2012 and
    not 100 BC.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Seamusgirl

      How about this, if you are going to put down "Mormons" then get the name right. LOL. Like calling Wiccans "whickers" LOL

      July 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • yardbird1

      He isn't a Mormon, nor do Christians believe in more than one wife- wow- ignorant to a belief

      July 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  19. blondie

    Talk about decay! Look at his teeth!

    July 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  20. JON


    July 26, 2012 at 4:09 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.