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. Greyman

    When I first turned by back on Christianity, I still had some respect for Billy Graham.

    Not anymore.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  2. bluefla

    Billy Graham is a bigot. So are the owners of chick-fil-a. This country is going to hell as long as bigots' views are validated as 'opinions' and not excoriated for the hateful, un-jesus like ignorant bs they really are.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  3. gottaluvem

    I find it interesting that Billy has made two comments about gays in the last 6/7 months, yet never did in all his years of evangelism. He's about 93 years old now, with Parkinsons Disease, living in the NC mountains. He is never on tv or the radio anymore. He doesn't do interviews or release statements about anything else.

    I know this particular issue is one that Franklin and his sisters have taken up. I could be wrong, but I think I smell a rat. I just find it hard to believe that after all his years of ministry, that Billy in his current state of retirement and such, makes a statement about an issue he never spoke on before. I don't buy it. Not for one instant. Billy Graham is a good and godly man, I think his children are putting words in his mouth (or on paper). I won't be convinced this is from him. Shame on his kids if they are responsible for this.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • BoldGeorge

      Well, you could say that Billy Graham (and all of America) has seen a huge increase in LGBT influence in recent years, not to mention, the country's redefining and legalization of gay marriage. He more than likely sees this as a growing spiritual concern that needs to be addressed, wouldn't you think? Especially when He has studied the Bible so much as to know what becomes of a nation, country or land that clenches their fists at God and screaming, "You don't own us! You don't even exist! And we will do and redefine whatever our lustful hearts desire!"

      July 27, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  4. Babs Johnson

    Since when does a fast food place that sells chicken sandwiches feel the need to opine on controversial issues? What's next? Burger King wieghs in on the Bush tax cuts? Carl Jr. issues a press release on stem cell research? At what point did Americans come to believe that everybody wants to know what's on their minds?

    July 27, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Andy

      An excellent post. I suspect it's what most people are thinking.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Which God??

      Good points, Babs. I think businesses should stick to business, and keep out of the political and personal aspects of peoples lives.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. wcb2009

    I dont remember the part in Business school where they teach you to anger and alienate consumers.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  6. lastofall

    He is just giving witness to a particular sin which those that live in it continually make an issue of, in attempting to make their darling sin as if it were no longer a sin; which is all due to their envy in desiring to be in the same rank as those who do not live in deliberate sin.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • sam stone

      really, lastofall? living in deliberate sin? all they want is equal rights. if you want to speak of deliberate sin, perhaps you should start with the drunkards, or adulterers, or the obese at your church, or in your mirror

      July 27, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      according to your book, lastofall- "all are sinners, all fall short of the glory of god"
      who are you to complain about the speck in your brothers eye, when you have a plank in your own?

      July 27, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  7. let's face it

    Is this Graham dinosaur still alive??? Why is he still holding out? I think I hear his god calling him.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  8. Justanopinion

    I find it sad that every time someone voices an opinion that goes against the popular belief they are looked at as being hateful. Truett Cathy never said he hates anyone of the LGBT community...he just disagrees with their lifestyle. He probably also hates the lifestyle of adulterers or drunkards....does that mean he hates the people who participate in that lifestyle??? No. And for the people who will argue that being lesbian or gay is not a lifestyle but rather the way the they were born, consider the fact that there are also genetic links that show some people are more prone to become alcoholics......Point is, II call it a lifestyle and like T.Cathy, I disagree with it. Again, I don't hate the people who participate in that lifestyle, I just disagree with their choice. Whatever happened to everyone choosing to agree to disagree?

    July 27, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Neeneko

      I think when your 'disagreement' involves stripping the people of legal rights, pushing them out of the public sphere, removing them from the gene pool, or otherwise wishing to make their lives difficult.. then that no longer counts as 'disagreeing'.

      'disagreeing' is 'I don't support your lifestyle, so I do not do it', not 'I do not support your lifestyle, so I will back measures to ensure you suffer for it'.

      This is not to say the LGBT community is blameless either. They have chosen their own weaker groups to do this to, ironically so that they can appear more mainstream to jerks like Graham.. 'see, we hate some of the same people you do, we aren't the perverts, they are!'

      July 27, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • elopez

      Theres also a genetic link between you being black or white. Learn some science. You calling it a lifestyle choice undermines the fact that it isnt a choice.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • laineyb

      Does he actively push for laws to trample on their rights? Um, no, he only does that to the gay community http://www.facebook.com/groups/451347938220904/

      July 27, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Amy

      Why do Christians not believe in all aspects of the bible? it states not judge people but people do it. Wonder if Chick fil a and Graham would discriminate against children who are born out of wedlock, couples who are divorced, people who commit adultery, or having slaves.. I have been told by the religious people that is different.. How is it different when the bible clearly speaks out against it in the bible.

      To the Religious People its fine to be religious but believe in all aspects of the bible not just parts of it.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  9. Meg

    I find it ridiculous that anyone would say Billy Graham's reasons are political. He has had one motive from the beginning to further God's kingdom. He has done a pretty good job of that and will continue until God calls him home.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • sam stone

      Right. He wants to deny a group of people equal rights. How is that furthering god's kingdom?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Primewonk

      A couple points – this is not any god's kingdom. This is the United States of America. Neith Graham's version of a god, nor any other god is in charge here, because we are not a theocracy.

      The other point, is that Graham, Cathy, and the other religious nutters want to legalize and legislate discrimination against a group of US citizens simply because the purposefully choose to be ignorant about the science of sèxual orientation.

      Not sure why you think these are good things.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Meg: You support bigots? How sad! Do you understand anything outside of your buybull about what Graham is doing? Do you understand that he is not doing anything good and instead is promoting hate? Or are you simply like many other sheep and instead of being a good moral human, you follow a leader/shepherd? Do you even care that what you believe is true or not?

      July 27, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Neeneko

      How is that not 'political'? Christianity is just another political system and always has been.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  10. MymanDarwin

    Having Graham endorse you in this issue is like using John Wayne Gacy to endorse clown parties or Bernie Madoff endorse financial investments.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  11. gliese 42

    May the Lord send his angels like Billy Graham when America is invaded from within its own society

    July 27, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • pervert alert

      Qu eers are eroding the fabric of society as we speak.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      idiot, you can't invade from within, either you support the majority or you rebel,
      I wish you the best with your geriatric angels

      July 27, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Larry89

      Mr. pervert, how exactly are they doing this?

      July 27, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  12. Paul

    Honestly, this whole issue is petty. And Billy is right, this country is on a downward spiral. It's going to hell on a hand basket. When you trade morals for hedonism and compassion for apathy thats what happens. America will fall just like Rome

    July 27, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • tim620

      I agree. It also falls apart when you oppress a group of people and don't give everybody equal rights.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • pervert alert

      Disgusting sin does not qualify as a minority. There are no rights to be perverse. Qu eers the folks that gave the world AIDS

      July 27, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      at least rome took a thousand years to fall
      between fundamentalist intolerance and and the ease with which an american citizen can get his hands on weapons of medium destruction, the fall will be in your lifetime Paul-

      July 27, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  13. Chick Fil Yum

    Its still food? Soooo why do people care? Its so good....

    July 27, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  14. Reality

    Dear Billy,

    A prayer for you and all those who think like you:

    The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (References used are available upon request.)

    July 27, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • .....


      July 27, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • MymanDarwin

      Don't forget Reality...the mythology promoted by the Romans was also urged by the Jewish pharisees at the time as a means of keeping the populace subservient to the Roman empire and thus by giving them a martyr. The old Roman government became the Vatican and still controls the purse strings and minds as it did back then. The Jewish pharisees wanted to get back to ethnic purity and were only too happy to see a new "religion" pull the unpure bloods from the Jewish church.

      People are herd animals....sheep. Evolutionary history has shown this. Most religions are nothing but mythology, wrapped in text, painted with veiled threats, and for one reason.....to keep the masses in line.

      This is the reason why we will die as a society. Not because two people fall in love and happen to be the same gender...but because many are still beating their chests around the camp fire grunting at the sky.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Kelley

      Well said, Billy!

      July 27, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    July 27, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • ArthurP

      More can be accomplished by two hands working than a thousand clasp in prayer.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • just sayin

      Two hands working without a plan are useless. Prayer provides the plan. God bless

      July 27, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • tim620

      I replied to you yesterday as well. Please read the article. This isn't about atheism...

      July 27, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • just sayin

      The article does not have to be about atheism for the Truth to be posted about how useless atheism is. God bless

      July 27, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!}

      July 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Name*DAVID KNAPP


    July 27, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      He didn't walk it during the civil rights, he should just die and go to heaven,what is he waiting on

      July 27, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Reality


      July 27, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      stand up man?
      you're confusing yourself with Bob Hope, now there was a stand up man

      July 27, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  17. krehator

    Oh, well that changes everything..

    July 27, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  18. The_Pope_is_just_another_man

    Here Billy, Have a chicken sandwich on me.Heard in full your conversation with Richard Nixon in the oval office on the tapes from the White house.Your bigotry against Blacks and Gays was rather apparent.Even over Nixon's.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • sam stone

      i don't think they cared much for jews, either

      July 27, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  19. eric

    I respect what Billy Graham says. The integrity of this man is without question, and the problem with America is that we are losing a generation of real men who lead by example and speak the absolute truth, even at the peril of their own reputation.... Here Here.. a dying breed.. one day America will cry out for righteous men to lead her again.. hopefully before its too late...

    July 27, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • sam stone

      yeah, integrity....denying people equal rights. bull connor would have been proud

      July 27, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • sam stone

      he is not speaking the "absolute truth", he is stating an OPINION that you apparently agree with. get over yourselves

      July 27, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • sam stone

      not to mention lester maddox

      July 27, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  20. Yawn

    And this is news why? Anyone shocked?

    July 27, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • sam stone

      Shocked! Shocked!

      July 27, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Shocked his.ass still breathing

      July 27, 2012 at 6:51 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.