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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. Bentley

    THANK YOU MR.GRAHAM FOR STANDING UP FOR US CHRISTIANS!! SOMEBODY NEEDS TOO!!

    July 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • edweird69

      Usually, you're on your knees. Now you want someone to stand up for you?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Bentley

      Yes... you Christians have no voice and are a picked on minority religion in the U.S.

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • janey33

      Yes, those who against Chrisianity are full of hate and intollerance. It's too bad they won't take a lesson from Jesus, who teaches love and forgiveness.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Janey33

      You've 'got' to be kidding... in soooo many ways on this ?

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  2. Chad

    "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

    WELL SAID!!!
    really astonishing that a company could actually receive criticism for stating that the existing law should not be changed.
    amazing.

    see you at Chick-Fil-A on Wed Aug 1!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      which god do we strive not to offend?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • edweird69

      You won't see me there. Go make the rich even richer... that's the American way. BTW, when you're down and out, they won't be there for you. They might whisper one of their worthless prayers, but it will buy you nothing.. zero... zilch.. nada.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Chad

      The list is short.. there is only 1 real one...
      The God of Abraham

      July 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Chad

      @edweird69, actually Christians are the most charitable people on earth..

      July 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      One true god?

      I hope you are not naive enough to think you are first cult follower to think that. Romans thought they had the true gods too.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • edweird69

      @Chad – oh right.. all their deeds have a motive. To prosylitize their religion. BTW, there are countless groups that are much more charitable than Xtians.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Chad

      edweird69 " BTW, there are countless groups that are much more charitable than Xtians."

      there are?
      like.. atheists??
      LOL

      funny stuff, thanks for that 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  3. janey33

    Chunk a chunk...WHAT??? Do you know ANYTHING at all about Christ and the BIble????? What kind of idiotic statement is that??? Jesus did not make any money and he did not employ anyone. His purpose for coming here was so different. Try reading the New Testament.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      So you missed my point, not surprising.

      according to christian bible jesus spent his time HELPING people, not taking advantage of the poor and less qualified for monetary gain.

      BTW, don't tell your friends jesus lived off the handout of others. conservatives will hate him too.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chunk a chunk "according to christian bible jesus spent his time HELPING people, not taking advantage of the poor and less qualified for monetary gain."
      =>He spent His time preaching and healing...
      I'll bet this statement by the Lord will shock you, as it does most people who havent actually read the bible, and believe Jesus to be a sort of Gandhi type figure....

      "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her Matthew 26

      =========
      @Chunk a chunk "BTW, don't tell your friends jesus lived off the handout of others. conservatives will hate him too."
      =>as a preacher, He earned His wages..
      “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” Deut. 25

      July 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  4. edweird69

    I make sure I sin as much as I can every day. That way Jesus didn't die for nothing.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • janey33

      edweird69...sin must be forgiven. You apparently forgot about that part.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • edweird69

      I would have told Jesus not to bother with being crucified. I have no desire to spend eternity with his monster of a daddy.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  5. Chunk a chunk

    I guess they edited out the part where jesus made his money off the backs of cheap labor.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • janey33

      edweird69...so you will be glad to be in Hell. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  6. Spike

    Never been to Chick-fil-A ultil this week–it was packed. Great chicken! The drive through was packed too. I'm going there again tomorrow. The silent majority is solidly behind them, like it or not. We just don't post as much because we have jobs and decline to depend on the government for handouts....

    July 26, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • edweird69

      Don't worry Spike... your hate campaign is in full swing. If you and your ilk are going to heaven, I'm glad I'm not.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Buddy

      It's great chicken. I don't care about politics. Political fanatics are coconuts.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • edweird69

      Chicken can be made a thousand ways. Making delicious chicken is not rocket science. I'm a vegetarian, but I know there's a thousand ways to make chicken people like. Big deal Chick Fil A... what an acoomplishment.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Spike

      Hey edwierd (or whatever). Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? Your posts are full of hatred. They do make me laugh, though. Thanks for the entertainment!!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • junior

      The nearest Chick Fil A is about an hour away. I will make the most of the drive, have a meal there and $100 dollar gift cards for my friends.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • edweird69

      @Spike – glad you like my sense of humor. My idols are George Carlin and Bill Maher.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Spike

      Well said, junior! I didn't think about gift cards. I know what all of my family and friends are getting for Christmas/birthdays/anniversaries (etc.) now!! Great idea!!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  7. Chunk a chunk

    Blockbuster thought they didn't have to change with the time too.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Buddy

      AIDS will make this problem go away, when it makes it's next morph.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  8. The Man

    Whether two men marry, two women marry, a man and a dog marry, a man and a woman marry, what is the difference?" Do what you want, just stop trying to force other to agree with it. If you do your homework, you will realize that everytime, you try to force the issue (i.e. placing on a ballot) you continue to be defeated therby embolding your opposition. Americans are well know for sayng one thing publically (PC) and doing another privately(Voting Booth), so stop relying of them. Americans are slow to adapt and are defly afraid of change, see how the african american community is stiill only allowed to vote under the voting rights act of 1965 (that's right, it still not a law) Why are they not up in arms,,,,,"yet we have a black president...maybe you can take a page from their book (passive aggression). Also, if you recall from your history course, since the crusades, christians have alway's stood firm against those that oppose their ways. Why should you be any different? Publish your own bible to say just what you want, build your own church with your own statment of beliefs, most of all, revisit your history book, the way your going about it is all wrong.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • hillbilly

      I think you meant to say a woman and a dog

      July 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • edweird69

      Fighting for my rights is never WRONG. I will fight 'til my dying day for the right to marry the love of my life. There is no "wrong way" to fight. War was declared on me, long ago... and if it's war the world wants with me, it's war they will get.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Craboo

      edweird69, You don't have to fight the younger generation is with you. All these religious extremest are chasing people away from the church. Attendance is falling but when it hits them in the pocket book they will change. The history of religion is not about god but power and money.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  9. brandonrains

    The only stand worth taking involving god, is running away

    July 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Mr Dalloway

      Let us praise your words.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • janey33

      You can run as far as you want. That's up to you what you want to believe. But those who believe in God have a right to their beliefs, too.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • brandonrains

      American's stand up and are willing to die for any minority being repressed, even to the point that the rights of a few push aside the rights of many. I think this happened before somewhere else....

      July 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  10. Chunk a chunk

    I'm sure chick-fil-a would've preferred if Graham didn't bring this up again. I'm sure they are trying to put this behind them and minimize the damage.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • edweird69

      I doubt it. He rallied his xtian zealots by the millions, to spend their $ to promote his hatred.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • janey33

      edweird69...Billy Graham has no hatred. Just because you don't agree with something you call it hate. How sad you are. Jesus teaches love and forgiveness. I hope that you will see that one day.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Craboo

      Gays deserve his love but not his forgiveness as they have done nothing wrong.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  11. ArthurP

    People have to remember that the reason why Christian religion in the US is so intolerant of others is because it has its roots in the Puritan movement in Europe. Which as we all know is/was the Christian Taliban. They did not come to America for religious freedom but rather the freedom to practice their intolerant brand of Christianity that was not tolerated in Europe.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • janey33

      Christianity goes according to the Bible. God makes the rules, not us, so it is God you are calling intollerant.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • ArthurP

      If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother ... Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city ... And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.

      Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      So I guess no one on this board is a good Christian because although many bemoan the rebellious of your children. No body is getting stoned. (with rocks that is) God wont like that.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Craboo

      What is one rule god made? I thought the church said the bible was written by men?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • ArthurP

      So what you are saying is that the Bible was so 'important' a work that he just left Man to write it without any oversight or proofreading to make sure Man got it right. Well if that is the case maybe the bit about Gays is just plain wrong and God never corrected it because He did not QA the final product.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  12. Chunk a chunk

    How about if chick-fil-a give their workers a living wage?

    Now that would be impressive and give christianity a good name.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • janey33

      If you don't like what they pay, you don't have to work there. There are LOTS of places that pay minimum wage, so why single them out?? I am unemployed and would love to work there are anywhere else that pays me minimum wage. Sure beats not having any at all.

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

      Well they claim they are a christian company. But according to the christian bible, christ wouldn't take advantage of cheap labor to make a buck.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Craboo

      THEY ARE NOT CHRISTIAN THE CEO IS. The owners are Mormon and if Janey supports them she should make room in her bed for more women.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      craboo,

      Who are the Mormon owners?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Mr Dalloway

    Religion is the greatest harlot of our times.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Braden

      It's a shame really. It has the potential to do so much good yet all too often it's been hijacked by politicians and warmongers.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • lol

      but harlots have some positive qualities

      July 26, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Three in fact. Ok, four.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  14. thes33k3r

    Memo to Chick-fil-A:
    You can keep your chicken sandwich and your destructive religious beliefs.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • janey33

      You are free to believe as you want, and so is Chick-fil-a. The owners are Christians who answer to God, not you.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Craboo

      janey33 the owners are not christian the CEO is. The owners are Mormon that is why they close on Sundays, it is part of Mormon belief that people should not work on Sundays.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Just Checkin Chicken

      craboo,

      Please tell us who the Mormon owners are.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  15. janey33

    usef...not funny. makes me want to puke.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • usef

      ehh...what???

      July 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  16. Michael

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzhZ-2Ui9pM&w=560&h=315%5D

    July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Michael

      bummer that obviously didn't work – how did you post videos???

      July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  17. chuck

    "startling"? my god you must be very young

    July 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  18. Chunk a chunk

    What's christian about making money on the backs of cheap labor?

    Some slave owners gave their slaves sundays off without pay too.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  19. Charlie

    I am so proud of Chick-fil-A for taking a stand for God.
    More business' need to take a stand and fight against the moral decay of our country.
    Billy Graham is correct in what he said about comparing our country to Sodom and Gamorrah, this is the direction our country is going, we are end times as the Bible predicts, and people better take notice. The fact that our kids are being decieved by the gay life style and the horrible morals our human race is desplaying is a shame. Parents better start fighting for their kids by living a moral life style and setting an example, for our children. This is heartbreaking to see our kids turn to drugs and immorality to fill the hole in their lives that they are not getting from the parents and the world. God help us.....

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

      The true sin of Sodom was inhosptiality which you're completely guilty of.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Mr Dalloway

      There is no god just a bigoted corporation.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • scholar

      @ Michael
      Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται

      July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Chunk a chunk

      can you be more specific? which one of the thousand plus gods are they taking a stand for again?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • usef

      well said charlie....

      July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      You know, I think it's time both of you cites sources for the etymology you both claim.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Michael

      Scholar what are you trying to post here???

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

      The original Koine greek you requested the last word speaks against your assertions and the video is blasphemy.... Rebellion is the sin that dooms unbelievers and the immoral.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • janey33

      Charlie...you are right on!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Braden

      Right, let's just go back to the 13th Century. Such a wonderful time period.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Michael

      Go back to our original conversation on page 15, this isn't the place for it. btw, would you tell me which verse you're posting and specifically what Greek word you think proves you're right. Again, a simple Google search will prove 'born eunuchs' back then meant gay men. It's that simple. But you think since you have found the original text and can past today's definition of eunuch from Free Dictionary dot com that this somehow proves you're right???? What?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Kitty

      I totally agree. It's shameful the direction this country has taken. I'm 100% behind Chick-Fil-A for not compromising their beliefs and morals to cater to our decaying world. Chick-Fil-A is one of only a few fast food restaurants that is closed on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath Day. They put God ahead of the almighty dollar. I partonize their restaurant whenever I can. It's refreshing to know there is a business person who takes a stand for God and His commandments.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • scholar

      Michael, Since you do not know Greek who can you make any assertions at all... you have given your incompetence away... Silly rabbit trix are for kids!

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

      "The fact that our kids are being decieved by the gay life style and the horrible morals our human race is desplaying is a shame."

      You happen to be morale bankrupt, you want to teach your children your hatred and intolerance. You are neither religious or believe in freedom. Your children should be removed from you and give them a chance to live a good fair life.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  20. Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO-msplukrw

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

      Too funny! I was going to post this video. I met all them about 2 months ago when they came to NYC. I LOVE Willam! He's so funny – he was robbed on Drag Race!!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Mr Dalloway

      Fantastic!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      @Michael
      🙂

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

      laughed my assOff ...cheers mate.

      July 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Love that Fluffy !!! 😀 You Rock !

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 10:44 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.