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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. Flamespeak

    I have more respect for Chick-fil-a for making their statements. A company can side with the majority to not offend anyone and keep their business up, but to make their stand for something they feel is right (even if I don't agree with them) is pretty impressive. Ultimately though, it is a non-issue and it is recieving too much attention.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • Dakota2000

      Chck-fil-a is a family owned business. They don't have to answer to stock holders. They can say what they want. I have never been to one and don't ever intend to go to one now. But, they have they have a right to free speech without being shouted down. Its called civil discourse. While I disagree with them I don't think they should be punished because they expressed an opinion.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:50 am |
  2. sippyjuice

    We'll make great pets

    July 27, 2012 at 2:19 am |
  3. brian ramirez

    Why doesn't god have a wife? Maybe god is gay

    July 27, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • HeavenSent

      He will. They are called Christians that make it through the narrow gate.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:08 am |
  4. Speedo

    What on Earth does a tasty chicken sandwich have to gay marriage anyhow? Do I need to ask what the Burger King believes before I take down a whopper and fries?

    July 27, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      You didn't know that Burger King and Ronald McDonald have a secret affair going on? Why do you think Ronald is so happy all the time? It's because of the King's "WHOPPER", and the King just loves Ronald's "special sauce". Politics may make for strange bedfellows, but business can as well.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • Evangelicide

      It's like this... Americans take great pride in their First Amendment rights, and their belief in their unique definition of "freedom." Unfortunately Americans have yet to reconcile their respect for the First Amendment with their desire to silence all who think differently from them. Since physical violence is not an option, unpopular ideologues are assaulted economically.

      In this instance, however, the campaign against Chic-fil-a stems is gaining much more momentum than it perhaps should due to the simple fact that civil unions are a hot topic now.

      Funny how we claim to have come such a long way from our racist past, yet we continue to look for excuses to screw with people...

      July 27, 2012 at 4:31 am |
  5. John American

    Does anyone know how many grams of fat are in a chic filet sandwich? If you eat one every day for a year, chances are you've shaved off 15 years of your life. Every Christian Republican should eat one every day! They'll soon look as healthy as Billy Graham, and I'm sure they believe that they'll be in Heaven, so it will be a win win situation! Long live the gay Americab taxpayer! Ha!!

    July 27, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  6. Dillard Jenkins

    George W. seemed to have an affection for men too if you remember the juicy kiss he gave to the Saudi King; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRhDzpJV2TM

    July 27, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  7. Adrian

    Yummy....more criss-cut waffle fries for me. Thanks!

    July 27, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  8. Tbone

    Puck Ms. Figgy. Gays are so distorted. It's your choice to live that way. Deal with it. God forbid the day when Sandusky and his ilk start using the "I was born this way" excuse too.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Tbone

      Hey -Tbone...

      Even though the evidence overwhelmingly states that it is nature, not nurture... we'll put that aside.

      Whether it's Nature or it's a choice... since there is -0- evidence that sincere loving moral gay individuals aren't hurting anyone, why would you want to deny them equal rights under the law ?

      Peace...

      July 27, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Michael

      Sandusky was straight, married to a woman, had kids and never, ever, had an encounter with an adult male. Do you know the difference between a 10yo boy and a 30yo man?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • neilgarcia

      "It's you're choice to live that way." Seriously? Did you choose to be born with ten fingers and two legs? Well that's kinda how it works... I'd rather have a girlfriend I can kiss in public and sit on the same side of the booth with... I don't know what that is like... I've tried and I get yelled and cursed at and even asked to leave. My attraction to girls is like your attraction to parrots... there just isn't that chemistry in the body.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • HeavenSent

      neilgarcia, it is a choice. Infants are born not knowing s3xual preference.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • sam stone

      tbone....go so-dom-ize yourself

      July 27, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • sam stone

      HS: At what age did you "choose" to be your orientation?

      July 27, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  9. crashingwaves

    Hats off to S. Truett Cathy and son Don Cathy, for what they believe in. I too believe marriage is between a woman & man. I find nothing wrong with anyone expressing their views on a particular issue. Also no where did the Cathys say gays & lesbians were not welcomed at Chick-Fil-A. I for one will continue to eat at Chick-Fil-A.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Michael

      That line doesn't hold up in court you know.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Mrs Time

      Of course they won't discriminate against their money. They are capitalists. Which makes them far from what their bible teaches them.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  10. Jewel

    “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,” .........this is so true. Chik fila is a private company that never said anything hateful. I could understand if they said they weren't going to serve gays....but they just said they support the biblical definition of marriage and now their a discriminating?????? I don get it??? Why is it ok for everyone to be able to talk about their beliefs and rights but as soon as someone comes out in opposition their accused of hate? They said nothing demeaning about gays at all just they don't agree?

    July 27, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • scoobaj

      Exactly true. Why am I the bad guy, because I don't agree? I can't stand how gay supporters always play the hate card.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • crashingwaves

      Jewel, this is the type of world we live in. Freedom of speech applies to a select few but not the rest of us. I totally agree with the Cathys and will continue to eat at chick-fil-a.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Michael

      What is so hard to understand? They gave money to hate groups who's sole purpose is to demonize the LGBT community and make sure they never achieve equal civil rights. Hey, you know, for example, I don't hate black people but let me give lots of money to the KKK so they can hate them for me.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Jewel

      Hi -Jewel...

      You Said: " they just said they support the biblical definition of marriage and now their(sic) discriminating?????? I don get it??? "

      Sure... they(Chik-fil-A have their rights to free speech. It's a fine distinction. Gays 'are' discriminated against and don't have equal rights under the law.

      That is what they are seeking. Every time a Christian says that they believe in the Bible's version of relationships, gays 'are' being looked at by (inference) as not o.k.... less than... going to burn in hell, etc...etc...

      Equal rights, among other things, is what they are after, IMO.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      Why is it ok for everyone to be able to talk about their beliefs and rights but as soon as someone comes out in opposition their accused of hate? They said nothing demeaning about gays at all just they don't agree?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Jewel

      Hi -Jewel...

      You Said: " they just said they support the biblical definition of marriage and now their(sic) discriminating?????? I don get it??? "

      Sure... they(Chik-fil-A have their rights to free speech. It's a fine distinction. Gays 'are' discriminated against and don't have equal rights under the law.

      That is what they are seeking. Every time a Christian says that they believe in the Bible's version of relationships, gays 'are' being looked at by (inference) as not o.k.... less than... going to burn in hell, etc...etc...

      Equal rights, among other things, is what they are after, IMO.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      July 27, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  11. Megan Grawe

    Listening to dumb liberals is tiring and kind of makes me hungry! ....time for some Chick-Fil-A!

    July 27, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • SickOBigots

      Hope you choke on it.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • sam stone

      i would suggest you choke on it, but i suspect you learned to suppress the choke response pretty early.

      July 27, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  12. schwarzey

    I don't think one religious nut needs to defend another organization set up to support religious nuts.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  13. ArthurP

    So I have just been told on good authority that some parts of the Bible are not to be taken literally.

    So maybe that part of the Bible that says Gays are bad should not be taken literally as well?

    By the way is there a list of these parts somewhere?

    July 27, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Thinkster

      All over the web – here, try this one – http://godisimaginary.com/

      July 27, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • janey33

      Just read the Bible. A study Bible would be a good one to use. But I'm sure that you would not waste your time on it. You'd rather just stay ignorant of it, but keep putting down Christians for their beliefs.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • MG.

      Chick-filet sales are reported to be up, thanks to your liberal brand of hatred and free advertising. ....liberals ...LOL

      July 27, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Heavensent

      Arthur, who's the good authority you write of? Another spiritually dead person such as yourself?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Michael

      Aruthur, instead of getting a study Bible, so you can have another man write you a book to tell you what the Bible states, just go Google the information you're wondering about. The original text of the Bible never condemned gay people. It's a plain and simple fact that no "study bible" would ever dare mention. If you don't believe me just go Google it. You seem smart enough to figure out how to verify and cross reference for accuracy any information that's presented to you as fact.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • phoodphite

      Heavensent presumes the lack of spirituality in a person because they may know little about the Bible. A very poor assumption. This is one of the main problems with extremist Christianity.

      The first thing to know about the Bible is that it is the word of men and not of God. It was written and translated by men. Secondly, don't elevate the words of the self-proclaimed "apostle" Paul who was more a politician than anything else, above those of Jesus, or you automatically fall into the extremist category. Even if you don't believe Jesus is your savior – his words are miles more helpful than anyone else's for the NT, imho. But do take notice of how often Paul's words are quoted for politically convenient purposes that may be contradict Jesus' teachings. (And his is attributed with writing a large portion of the New Testament.) This is the tool of the extremist Christian – show love with Jesus and fight or put someone down with the words of Paul. They have to use Paul's words for the nasty stuff cause Jesus' lesson was more about love and not being judgmental. So next time you see someone posting Romans or Corinthians, etc. to make a nasty point – recognize that you may be dealing with an extremist.

      So let's see – what could we have avoided if people had only had Jesus' words and not those of Paul. Well, the whole priesthood thing would be different (and probably a lot of abuse of minors avoided). Some wars would have been avoided. Women's roles in the church most likely would have progressed much more quickly (and certainly would not have left us where things currently are in say the Catholic church or a fundamentalist or evangelical church); we don't even need to get into talking about the Inquisitions. Let's just say many negatives and divisions amongst supposed "Christians" could have been avoided. Paul did have his hands full with many problems with different groups of people. No doubt there. But it was people reading everything this politician wrote and elevating those words to a point of absurdity that has done the world so much harm since.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • ArthurP

      Sarcasm : Something that is lost on the web.

      July 27, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • sam stone

      janey....get over yourselves. christians are not being hated because of their beliefs. they are being hated for their evangelism (the pompousness involved in preaching in the name of god) , and for using those beliefs to deny others' civil rights.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • pervert alert

      Being qu eer is not a civil right it is a disgusting unnatural crime against humanity.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  14. gofigure

    Why do gays expect everyone to jump on the gay bandwagon. Are the Cathy family or Rev Graham not allowed to state their feelings without being slammed for it? I will be going to Chick-fil-lay on August 1. Gays if it offends you good because I am sick of having your lifestyle shoved down everyones throat.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • sam stone

      all they are seeking is equal rights under the law.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  15. Jeff

    Hate some gays, buy some chicken.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Craboo

      Jeff, Just come out of the closet. It will stop your torment.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • gofigure

      God and Jesus don't hate anyone. I have sinned many times as I am sure everyone on this blog has. The Creator and the Savior don't like what I do but they still love me. I feel that applies to everyone else as well. I know that as surely as I know my own name. The non believers don't have to believe that but please respect those that do or is that just too much to ask.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • SickOBigots

      @gofigure:

      "I'm sick of having your lifestyle shoved down my throat"

      (next post)

      "non-believers don't have to believe but please respect our point of view or is that too much to ask"

      Define irony, hypocrite.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • pervert alert

      Truth is not hate. Who wants some disgusting AIDS afflicted qu eer drooling where people eat? Qu eers the folks who gave the world AIDS

      July 27, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • sam stone

      gofigure: you seem to have an issue confusing belief with knowledge

      July 27, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  16. howart Dao

    graham will support polygamy as the biblical definition of marriage

    July 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • janey33

      No, he doesn't.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Michael

      But Janney, aren't we strictly going by what the Bible says? The most common form of marriage in the Bible is clearly polygamy. Wait!!!! You're not seriously choosing to ignore major parts of the Bible that go against what you stand for, are you? How could you!!!!

      July 27, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • janey33

      Michael...if the New Testament endorses polygamy, I stand corrected. I don't know where. You will have to show me. The Old Testament Jewish laws were done away with when Jesus came.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Michael

      As I suspected. Let's ignore vast amounts of the Bible unless we can use it to justify our own prejudice then we're all for those parts. Sorry, silly me. I must have forgotten how your klan operates.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      Janey, the O.T. laws were never suppossed to go away. Even your dead zombie jesus guy said that the scriptures still apply. Seeing as how there WAS no N.T. at that time, he was talking about the O.T. So the "Jewish laws" you speak of were still supposed ot be enforced nad observed.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • ArthurP

      janey33

      The Old Testament Jewish laws were done away with when Jesus came.

      ===============

      Wrong Again. To prevent this you should really 'read' your Bible.

      Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. – Matthew 5:17

      July 27, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  17. Nissim levy

    It's very sad that in his last years on earth billy graham's heart and mind have hardened instead of letting in a love for all humanity.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • janey33

      Not sad that he will go to Heaven and not have to put up with those who spew hatred for him anymore.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Nissim levy

      You again?

      July 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • janey33

      Yep, me again. You again? 🙂

      July 27, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Dave

      If a bitter, angry bigot like him gets into "heaven", that's all the more reason not to ever want to go there. Who would want to hang out with Billy Graham and Hitler?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • janey33

      Dave...it's obvious that Jesus is much more forgiving than you are. And, no, it's highly unlikely that Hitler is in Heaven. In order to enter Heaven, you must be forgiven for your sins. Hitler committed suicide while still believing he was right. At least nowhere is it reported that he was sorry for what he did.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • sam stone

      janey: you have no authority to make pronouncements of who will be in heaven. that is god's call, not yours.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  18. Dave

    It's hardly surprising that a man who's made a long career of pandering to prejudice is acting in support of another organization working to legislate discrimination.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Craboo

      Hardly, but we do need to stand up for people and whats right. If we let these people discriminate and teach hate we are no better then Paterno and Penn State.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • janey33

      Craboo...Jesus teaches love and forgiveness, not hatred.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Dave

      If Josh existed, (and there's no historical evidence that he did), then he commanded he was very likely a gay man, so there's no way he would have condemned his own actions with his 12-man harem.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Michael

      Yeah, hate, bigotry, prejudice are all GREAT ideals to strive for! I'm sure Peter will be there with open arms to allow him to come in, you know, as long as he brings his enough tax forms to prove his sole purpose of God wasn't to bilk millions of dollars out of God's followers.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • janey33

      MIchael...God forgives His people. It sure is a good thing that you are not God.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Michael

      Janey, your high horse is tiring... Yes we all know anyone who doesn't fit into your mode is wrong. We get you.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  19. masterdavid

    Your all preaching hate. Look in the mirror and realize how stupid your own religion is before chiming in on others dumb beliefs. Religion is just a scam and you are all victims of the worlds oldest con job.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Christianwoman

      Never heard of a 2000 year old con job

      July 27, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • sam stone

      christianwoman: what is it, if not a confidence game?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  20. Reality

    One more time:

    We don't need some overpaid (about $500,000 per year), anti-gay, redneck preacher or his son ($ 1 million per year) telling us what his non-atoning Jesus would do or say.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Michael

      I can tell you exactly what Jesus would say and do. He would enter into the temple, over turn the money changing tables and say "How dare you use My Father's Name to make money." Then Billy Graham and all of the other religious elders would get together and kill Him.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Nissim levy

      Michael, i agree.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • janey33

      MIchael...no. they wouldn't. You better take a look at your own hatred.

      July 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Michael

      Janney, you're not too quick, are you? It exactly what the religious elders did back then. Did Graham make millions of dollars using God's Name? Is Graham throwing stones at the LGBT community even though he isn't sinless?

      You don't know your Bible too well, do you? The religious elders haven't changed at all in the past 2,000 years and we can all rest assured if some man showed up that threatened their cash cow they would indeed find a way to get rid of him.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Nissim levy

      Janey33, there is no difference between the evangelical christians of today and the pharisees that jesus condemned. If you truly want to open your heart to god then you must lift the veil from your eyes and see these people for wbat they truly are.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Michael

      But Nissam, these evangelicals LOVE to stand on the street corners to tell anyone who will listen to them just how much they love God and, oh yeah, make your check out to 'cash', send as much as possible, as often as possible because God is LOVE!

      July 27, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • sam stone

      "Preacherman talking on the TV, putting down Rock and Roll. Wants me to send a donation, 'cause he's worried about my soul. Drunkard wants another drink of wine and a politician wants a vote. I don't want much of nothing at all, but I will take another toke..." Charlie Daniels

      July 27, 2012 at 7:42 am |
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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.