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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. Jason

    If Mr Graham feels our country is so evil perhaps he should move his happy ass somewhere else.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • ArthurP

      The Vatican comes to mind, he can keep the other old fa.rt company.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  2. ArthurP

    God must be Gay as you never hear of him with a female deity of any sort. Mind you, He did do Mary.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • goldbuck

      Does any one see god as a man

      July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Well according to the Bible, which is the word of God as he breathed it and therefore not open to interpretation, He made Man in his image so he must be a Man.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • goldbuck

      I know it says that but always thought it just ment the sole

      July 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  3. Chunk a chunk

    Christians have used their bible to justify treating one group or another as sub-human all through out our history.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • usef

      hmmm...i'm pretty sure islam doesn't support gay marriage either....

      July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      muslims haven't had much impact on our culture, what is your point?

      nor have I read about muslims using their bible to justify slavery in the 1800s in America.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Braden

      @usef: the pot is calling the kettle black.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  4. karen

    Good for them. Eat more chicken i say.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  5. glenn

    That "letter" has Franklin Grahams finger prints all over it! Rev. Billy would have never made a statement like that. Poor senile old guy letting his backward, greedy son put words in his mouth.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • David

      You are so right. Franklin wrote the message and said, "here daddy, sign here." Billy Graham would have never done this. He wanted to see every person come to know Jesus. It doesn't matter if you are gay or straight, God wants to have a relationship with you. Franklin needs to step down from ministry.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • TG

      I completely agree!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  6. Ralph M

    I thought this religious zealot was dead. Oh well, wishful thinking I guess.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • usef

      now that's acutal "hate" !!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Jen Clark

    I am proud to be a Christian. People need to realize that we don't hate gay people, we just don't agree with the lifestyle. There are probably many Christians out there that do "hate" gay people and judge them but that is not what the Bible tells us to do. Don't automatically form opinions about a group as a whole just because of the actions and words of a few.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Michael

      Hey, I don't hate gay people! I just don't think they deserve the same civil rights that I have!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jessica

      So what is the problem with giving us the same rights you have??

      July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jen Clark

      I actually do think the government should give you the same rights. To me it's not a political matter. My only problem with it is from a religious/moral standpoint.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • edweird69

      Jen – the bible also says judge not lest ye be judged, and let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Eli

      Jen Clark- It always warms my heart to be reminded that the majority of Christians ARE good people. Most of them are also good listeners. I hope you'll listen to this gentle reminder- Gay people are still people, and therefore an incredibly diverse group. There is no "gay lifestyle", just as there is no "blue eyed lifestyle" or "left handed lifestyle".

      July 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  8. Ron

    Amen Billy Graham! America and the entire western world needs to take note. Repent and turn from sin and seek the Lord while He may be found! Just saying as a forgiven sinner!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • edweird69

      Spoken like a true brain-washed sheep.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  9. goldbuck

    ever one gets to worked up over this things it will not matter in the end

    July 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • usef

      no, it won't matter if the economy improves....it's a diversion topic employed by the lib media in an attempt to take attention off of barry's failed presidency..it's like clock work....

      July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • goldbuck

      I was talking about at death

      July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  10. Craboo

    Why don't they realize Jesus was gay!!! He had no women, did not marry and spent this time with 12 men in sandals, long dress and long hair.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • goldbuck

      he had that Mary chick that traveled with him

      July 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Braden

      Not sure if serious.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • usef

      Jesus wasn't. BUT, anderson cooper, don lemon, jerry sandusky and barney frank ARE gay!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • David

      You know, I am a liberal and support equal rights for all people, but your vile statements of Jesus are repugnant and will do nothing to advance the cause of equal rights for gays or anyone else. Learn some respect.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Craboo

      Why is my opinion disrespectful, I thought our nation encouraged freedom of thought and people who think outside the box. I was proposing an idea that very well could be true.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Michael

      In the Gospel of John, John is referred to as The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.

      So we can take this two ways:

      1) John is the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved but this Gospel keeps insisting on telling us this for no apparent reason since Jesus loved all of the disciples.

      or

      2) John, The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.

      John was also the only disciple the didn't die as a martyr even though he was boiled in oil (which he survived unharmed). So let's say you have 12 of your best friends and they're across from you on a busy highway. The first eleven cross the street and even though you see a car coming you don't say anything and let the car hit and kill them. However, the 12th friend crosses and when you see that car coming you shout out "Hey, look out!!!" and thus you save his life.

      And oh yeah, when you're dying he's the only one by your side and you tell him your mother is now his mother and you tell your mother he is now her son.

      Gee, what does that imply????

      July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  11. Betty

    God will always be God, it does not matter what we think or do, he is almighty. Billy Graham thank you for standing up for what you believe. That is what all Christians should do including me. See you Wednesday chick-fil-A

    July 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • edweird69

      Hope you choke on your sandwich.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Chris

      Thank you Betty for taking a stand for what is right. Praying for you and the people who stand with God to live a blessed life ~~

      July 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  12. james lamm

    I agree that not wanting gay marriage does not = hating gays, but, on the other
    hand, the North Carolina amendment I believe also disallows civil unions which
    is bound to kill many gays by taking away partner's health insurance.
    Contributing to something that kills someone can be considered a form of
    hate. The sad thing is that neither Jesus, nor Paul, encourage followers to
    persecute gays outside the church. One can argue Paul wanted them kicked
    out of the church but what Chick Fille and Billy Graham want amounts to
    persecution of gays whether they are in the church or not./

    July 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Michael

      Hey, I don't hate gay people, I just don't want their loved ones to be insured!!!!

      lmao (yes, I know that isn't what you're implying)

      July 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  13. Dja137

    Reverend Graham, I came to a rally at Madison Square Garden in the early sixties where you spoke. I have carried your message in my heart that you shared that evening since. That Jesus loves me and though I do not deserve His love He has forgiven me. And He will welcome me into Heaven on my last day. Blessings always Dr Graham. You have truly done God's will and have been His servant.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • edweird69

      Oh how touching! I have vomit in my mouth. Yes, how wonderful depriving a group of tax paying citizens their civil rights, and promoting hatred. You sure picked a sick individual to be your hero.

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

      Indeed, Billy led many people to walks with God. He was a devoted Christian man. While we should always hold up Billy's name, but the son Franklin is not his father. The ministry has moved away from God and is chasing the political gold calf.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Craboo

      LOL, Guess he told you he forgives you.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  14. David

    Let's face it, the right wing nut, Franklin Graham is behind this. His father at 93 is too old to make such public statements. Billy led his generation to a deeper relationship with God and he will be remembered fondly for this. For his son to put his long retired father back into the public discussion is wrong. Billy is to be respected for his years of service to God, while Franklin is ruining the Graham legacy.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  15. vincent

    I have the recipe to the batter used in their chicken. they also fry thier chicks in peanut oil which makes a big difference. So now yall dont have to go to Chic la la la

    July 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  16. mikeschmed

    Shame on Chick-fil-a and Billy Graham for having the same opinion that Obama a month ago!!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • edweird69

      huh? Obaba said he was pro gay marriage, not against. Put down that crack pipe.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • usef

      um, he's trying to "evolve" into a two term president einstein...

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

      It's not Billy's opinion. Who would put up a 93 year old retired man who has been in seclusion for years to make such a statement. Only Franklin the sad choice of the leader of the Graham ministry after the great Billy.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  17. Scrappyike

    The company's founder expresses an opinion and everybody is up and arms about it. It is not like she said they would not be serving gays. If gays want the respect of everybody, then they need to respect the opinions and beliefs of others even if it differs from theirs. They are acting just like the atheists who are 'offended' by public display of religion. So far it is them who are forcing their beliefs (or lack of) upon the world. It is give and take. Get over it oversensitive gay community

    July 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • edweird69

      If you think I"m going to "get over" my rights be deprived dimbulb, you got another thing coming. How dare you!! I don't care about anyone's opinion. I care about someone with $ and power and prestige advocating denying me my civil rights.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Scrappyike

      Hi -Scrappyike...

      You Said: " If gays want the respect of everybody, then they need to respect the opinions and beliefs of others even if it differs from theirs."

      It's a bit more complex than just respecting beliefs. It's not just about a difference of *opinion*, it's about gays being discriminated against, hated, bullied, and... not having a lot of the same rights in our society.

      How do you respect people that *believe* you don't deserve equality under the law like everyone else, because they think you are less than, or a sinner, etc... and that think your 'soul' is going to burn for ever in 'eternal dam-nation.' ...?

      It is quite obvious that they have a pretty good case to be..."over sensitive" (as you called it) to say the least.

      Something to think about, -Scrappy, yes...?

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • ohsnap

      @edwierd69...What rights? They didn't say they wouldn't serve gay people. And why is it that gay people are becoming just like the people they are screaming and ranting about? Why must we agree with you? Live your life the way you want but allow people to live their way as well. Stop pushing your life style down other's throats or you will become just as intolerant.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • edweird69

      @ohsnap – DUH.. what rights? My right to marry my partner. Are you thick?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Michael

      Hey, I don't hate black people! But I'll just give the KKK tons of money so they can hate them for me!!!!

      That's the ticket!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  18. Praetorian

    So whaddaya do? Hey! Eat that Pork, Eat That Ham, Laugh till you choke at Billy Graham! Moses, Aaron and Abraham, they're all a waste of time, when it's your ass that's on the line, it's your ass that's on the line!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  19. Chunk a chunk

    Blockbuster thought they could live in their own little world too...

    July 26, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  20. Bonnie

    Someday a new generation of Christians will look back at this hypocrite and wonder how Christians could have been so hateful. This is the end of old haters and the beginning of the new excepting, tolerant ,loving Christians.Times are changing!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Jerico

      Since when is upholding your faith and moral values become hate?

      July 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • George

      You mean like Rev. Wright hating, don't you?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Braden

      @Jericho: It depends on how you uphold those moral values and beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Ryan

      It is not hate to provide a religious belief.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Ryan

      NO. It is not hate to provide a religious belief.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:08 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.