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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. iBelieve

    The word of God is true and all of his followers must strive to live a holy life.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Alfred

      Thank you Rev. Graham for standing up for the truth in the word of GOD.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • sam stone

      How incredibly pompous to think that any man speaks for god.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Dave

      So, should they murder their kids for disobedience, as he commands?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  2. ChaCha

    If there is a God, and if there is a Heaven, will all these naysayers still say it's all ok and demand entry thru the pearly gates?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Dave

      If I'm wrong, and there is a god, then the day I doe truly will be a judgment day. And on that day, I promise to give the guy a fair hearing before I pass judgment on him for his evil actions.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • sam stone

      If there is a god, and it is not the one in which you believe, will you demand entrance?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  3. Jeannine

    "Mr. Graham so correct."

    The Scriptures were written approximately 2000 or more years ago when there was no knowledge of constitutional homosexuality. The Scripture writers believed that all people were naturally heterosexual so that they viewed homosexuality activity as unnatural. Women today are pointing out that the inferiority of women expressed in the scriptures was a product of culture and the times in which the Bible was written; it should not be followed today, now that we are beginning to appreciate the natural and God-given equality of men and women.

    Similarly, as we know that homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as heterosexuality, we realize that the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality were conditioned by the attitudes and beliefs about this form of sexual expression which were held by people without benefit of centuries of scientific knowledge and understanding.

    It is unfair of us to expect or impose a twentieth century mentality and understanding about equality of genders, races and sexual orientations on the Biblical writers. We must be able to distinguish the eternal truths the Bible is meant to convey from the cultural forms and attitudes expressed there.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  4. Priest

    Mr. Graham so correct. Wake up America the clock is ticking!!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Dave

      Graham is a symbol of a brutal and evil religion that's dying almost as fast as he is.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  5. Lucy

    God never fails to warn before he destroys evil doing. He is that merciful. I praise and thank Him daily.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Dave

      Wait, wait wait...a mass-murderer and rapist is "merciful"? A figure that demanded human sacrifice is "merciful"?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • YeahRight

      "God never fails to warn before he destroys evil doing."

      Yeah, that must mean he's going to destroy Christianity because of their unfounded prejudice and bigotry that fuels the hate toward the gay community. Be careful now..... LOL!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Chauncy

      I can't understand the logic of some of you. Why are you blaming God for the actions of man? We are all granted free will.....even those who choose to use that free will for evil.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  6. kf9876

    Let’s face the facts. Those who cry the loudest about tolerance show the least when it comes to tolerance.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Those who cry the loudest about tolerance show the least when it comes to tolerance."

      LOL! Ok, now go back and read up on the civil rights moment when African Americans and women were fighting for their rights, you'll see your logic fails miserably.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " Those who cry the loudest about tolerance show the least when it comes to tolerance" Get out of high school before you start trying to "teach" us.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  7. Hypatia

    How abnut this? Cathy is the one who opened his mouth. HE made the decision to wade into this morass on his own. it was a stupid business decision and others do not agree with his hate-filled message of Xian biogotry. Those who support him can stuff themselves to heart failure on tyson patties. Others of us will not. Bottom line is that no one forced him to be a stupid businessman.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • kf9876

      First off he was specifically asked this question. His answer should not have been a surprise to anyone because his world view is Gods world view. He doesn’t have to hide that nor was it pointed at anyone. He stated Gods view and agrees with it as truth. If people feel condemned because of it they should take it up with the one who m stated it first God and then Christ because He brought it up a second time in the New Testament. Not his words Gods words deal with it. Maybe they should boycott the Bible. Truth is still true whether you believe it or not. After all we are just people what real powers do any of us really have. We live we die and we fight about stupid stuff like this (getting our own way).

      July 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      I don't care what he THINKS. I care that he gives generously to hate groups. As soon as that stops, he can have his life back. Until then, he'll be throwing away a lot of leftovers.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sales are up

      July 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  8. Frank

    Morals don't change – People do!!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Morals don't change – People do!!"

      LMAO – So obviously you didn't think about slavery or women's rights when you wrote that. LOL!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Dave

      Then why is it no longer considered "moral" to murder children for being disobedient? Why is eating shrimp no longer considered an "abomination"?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  9. Hypatia

    Is he still alive?

    July 27, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Ralph M

      That is what I thought. Guess he got tired of the little boys and needed to run his mouth

      July 27, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • ec

      Unfortunately, yes. Morally, no.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  10. Troll

    We either believe God's Word or we don't. I for one will take God at His Word. If you want to know how taking God out of the picture effects our lives then watch the DVD "Time Changer" (www,TimeChangerMovie.com).

    July 27, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Tom

      You don't even have to watch that movie. Just watch the news and it will become obvious pretty quickly.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • cherrypieguy

      shut down the freaks restaurant chain.......he's a religious bigot and is spreading hate mail to his employees.....religion is for the weak of mind........produce your false deity and I'll start going to church

      July 27, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • ec

      And how do you know god's word? Some fat, sweaty preacher says the bible is god's word and you believe him? The bible is an ancient text written by men who CLAIMED to hear god's word...that is not proof. Anyone who takes the bible literally is an idiot and an indictment of this country's education system.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  11. Tom

    Any business can do whatever they want to legally operate and supply it's customers with whatever services they offer. If you don't like Chick-fil-A then go eat someplace else, it's not like you don't have a choice.

    I've never eaten there, but as a result of this story I think I'll start doing so. Just to show my support for them. People with other points of view are invited to go someplace else.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ec

      Um, yeah, we know, hence the boycott. They have a right to be bigots and donate to hate groups, and they will be boycotted by millions of people in response to that hate.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Stephanie

      I think private business owners have the right to their own opinions, just like everyone else does. If they want to say they don't support a viewpoint, that is their right. Just like the right that people who don't agree with them do not have to spend their money at that business. Bigotry flows on both sides of the lifestyle choices and just because people don't agree on everything does not give anyone the right to encourage violence on either side.

      God loves everyone, regardless on how they live on this earth. If God even judges us, she/he will do it by his/her own yardstick. Not by one we have created. The bible was written by a nation of people who believed a certain way and used those writings to encourage their people to stay with a belief system that worked for them and their way of life. No one really knows who were the actual authors of the books in the bible, but there is no human being in this world who can live up to the standards set in those scriptures completely. If you believe in Christian theology all you have to do is Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Then love everyone else-even if you don't agree with them.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  12. PJ

    Billy Graham would defend Jerry Sandusky as long as he was raping kids with a Bible in his hands.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • CJ

      You are so wrong to say that. Absolutely not!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • cherrypieguy

      it sounds like your the only one that truly understands religion....good job pj

      July 27, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Ralph M

      or sends him money.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  13. meme

    We are planning a visit to Chick Fil A on August first to show our support for this wonderful organization. Thank you so much for having the guts to stand up for your beliefs and not to cower to public opinion.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Ralph M

      suppose you are going to penn state on the second to pray for sandusky too. westboro baptist freak

      July 27, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • ec

      Don't forget to wear your hoods!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  14. BoldGeorge

    When a true Christian sees a significant increase in social sinful influence, especially of this recent magnitude: the redefining of marriage and values, we more than likely see this as a growing spiritual concern, not to mention the deceitful aspect of it. And it surely needs to be addressed among believers who then need to their Christian duty that Christ appointed unto us in the great commission, to preach the gospel so that people may hear it and be saved by it. A bible-believing Christian should know through the Bible (and much of world history) what becomes of a nation, a country or a people that remove God of the human equation and scream from the rooftops, "You don't own us nor do you exist!!!" "We make up our minds as to what's moral, what's good and what's acceptable!!!"

    Then the world has no clue as to why unbalanced and disturbing human behavior occurs. I don't believe Christians should be involved in any social revolution:banning this, banning that, judging here, condemning there. We ought to answer God's calling and spread the good news of salvation to our neighbors, friends and the world. Personal spiritual reformation starts within, not at a social level.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Guest

      Amen, so true.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • ec

      So, your religion views it as a sin...fine, ban it in your religion. But not everyone belongs to your religion, so your religion should not dictate the laws that govern everyone. Get it? It's called separation of church and state. If you want to live in a nation run by religion, try Iran. We won't miss you.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  15. Kelsey

    I have great respect for Dr. Graham. He has, in his lifetime, sided with those who would choose to discriminate and suppress the Black vote during the Nixon administration but I forgave him because what I know more than anything else is that Billy Graham is a MAN. A vessel just like any other man with frailties and flaws. His redeeming quality is that he has led countless souls to Christ and He has my greatest love and admiration for this alone. But I do not believe that Billy Graham gets to decide who belongs to God and whether or not his interpretation of scripture is supreme. There are people all over this world who love Jesus and Rev. Graham, some them just happen to be gay! God bless you!

    July 27, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • ec

      Wow, that was touching...I admire your compassion.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Hogan's Goat

      He also got in bed with the Soviets, saying they were Christians. What a joke he is. Nixon's racist spiritual advisor is willing to instruct us about what chicken God likes us to eat.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  16. The Rev

    How true this article is! I find it so disheartening that the only sect of society not protected from blatant intolerance is the Christian church. How quickly people come to judge the beliefs of the church!

    While I do not support the hom.ose.xual lifestyle, I do not advocate for intolerance of that lifestyle. Why do people that disagree with Mr. Cathy's beliefs feel the need to lash out? Mr. Cathy is not denying hom.ose.xuals the opportunity to eat or be employed by his company. Mr. Cathy is not being intolerant of hom.ose.xuals in any way. He simply does not agree with hom.ose.xual marriage.

    I fail to see his intolerance; however, the intolerance shown by Mayor Emanuel, Mayor Thomas Menino, and Alderman Joe Moreno is quite evident.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • ec

      No one is trying to infringe on the rights of Christians. But they are passionately trying to infringe on others' rights. So, your religion views it as a sin...fine, ban it in your religion. But not everyone belongs to your religion, so your religion should not dictate the laws that govern everyone.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Reginald S Grange

      Rev, in MY opinion, you are spot-on correct! Regardless of mine, yours, offended dissenters, or anyones beliefs we as Americans including Mr. Cathy, have the right to EXPRESS our beliefs and to live our own lifestyles provided that they DO NOT infringe on the same rights of others to do same. I really point to the failure of the medias' reporters and so-called pundits for NOT pointing out the fact that Mr. Cathy's restaurants do NOT practice discrimination to ANY of it's patrons in regard to service or treatment! I too would be outraged if his business was in fact REFUSING service to, or inany other way, discriminating against anyone who didn't BELIEVE as he does! This is not the case however, and the various news organizations that are "reporting" this story have dropped the ball bigtime in my opinion, of informing the public that these are just one person's views, and NOT the discriminatory practices of a business. Bottom line to those offended anyway....go eat somewhere else!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      Rev, he can believe what he likes. I ate at the Dwarf House and Chick-Fil-A for years knowing it was run by crazy fundies, but when he starts bragging on tv about the money he gives to hate groups, he can find some new customers. His food would stick in my throat now.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  17. yannaes

    I am a vegetarian and will be at a Chick-fil-A next Wed. to support the company. And all the Christians haters of whom think that because people take a stand against what THEY think is right you are not better then they for calling them "haters, evil etc." because they do not agree with your position. How hypocritical of you!

    July 27, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Hypatia

      Hope you enjoy your rancid Tyson patty with a side of hate.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • ec

      I wouldn't patronize a restaurant whose owners donated company profits to the KKK...same thing. The Cathys are free to be bigots, and I'm free to boycott accordingly. They actively donated company profits to groups whose sole mission is to prevent gay marriage. If these groups were truly "pro-marriage", they'd also be trying to prevent hetero divorce...no, they're only concerns is keeping gays from marrying. THAT is hate. And I am intolerant of hate.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      So, as a vegetarian, you are going to take a stand and have a chicken slaughtered as a sacrifice to your beliefs? Yummy! Enjoy the hate nuggets!

      July 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  18. John

    Why would anyone eat crap from a fast food place? Taking your kids for a happy meal is child abuse.
    More important issues in this country than two guys getting married..

    July 27, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • mslisac363

      I bet your food cooked at home is no better... Also fast food was not made for lazy mothers to feed their kids there everyday. You got a plenty of fat unhealthy kids who don't eat fast food. Also the grocery store sales more junk food than anyone not to exclude the unheathly sugar cereal that most moms feed kids for bk. the unhealthy susage, pankcakes, eggs cooked in butter and salt. Really. The average restaurant is unhealthy. At the end of the day all of you have the choice to stay at home. Get a life and stop blaming someone else for your big butts... kids or parents.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • kf9876

      Lke three or four guys getting marry!!

      July 27, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Hugh Jass

      Their nuggets were actually pretty lean, much higher quality than McDogfood's. I'll miss them, but KFC has a new nugget that's better than theirs and less hateful.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  19. Eric

    One Religious fundamentalist extremist bigot to another's defense.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • mslisac363

      and you're just another unhappy person. get a life

      July 27, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Hypatia

      yup. And all the sheep are gonna bleat bleat bleat.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  20. Wunter Slouch

    Billy Graham is a hate filled evil man. I really want to be there when all things come to pass and he (and those alike) realizes that his choices in life have a consiquence and his life ment nothing more than the spread of hurt, pain, bigotry, racism, etc.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • GET REAL

      Billy Graham is one of the most spiritual men of our time... I dont think you will have to worry about beng there when all things come to pass... i dont think you will be in the same place... I commend him for supporting Chic fil a they have a right to stand by what they believe... they are not saying they will discrimnate or hate gays they just dont support them.. we all have a right to what we believe

      July 27, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • CJ

      You are merely showing your intolerance to differing views, by calling those who disagree with you as hateful and evil. There is not an ounce of hate in BG. He has never been associated with anything racist, hurtful or bigoted.

      But, you on the other hand are merely following the playbook of the Left, which is to personally destroy anyone who disagrees with you. So, who is really filled with hate? Why can't you tolerate someone who disagrees with you?

      July 27, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • kf9876

      Gee tell us what you really think. The only hate I see is reaking from your statement. The only discrimination in this whole thing is coming from the gay rights movent. Why because they don't like what he beleives it doesn't line up with want they want. Get a real cause. When he starts turning away their money because they're gay then it's discrimination. What a crybaby society we've grown into. Oh wait maybe we should growup.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • ec

      Ha! Spiritual? Maybe...Bigot? YES...this is a man who opposed civil rights for blacks. Wake up, people...your grandkids will be ashamed of you.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Wunter Slouch

      My intolerance for others views??? Really CJ? His views on segregation and human rights are appalling. I completely respect people who disagrees with me, but not when it comes to human rights, so in that case you’re right I am intolerant.

      Get real – Most spiritual, well…compared to who? Jimmy Swaggart? Jim Bakker? Oh no he's much more passionate that them, maybe The Dalai Lama? I don't think so...

      KF9876 – I recall Hitler was a man of god too… What were his views and tolerances on people different than his again. “NOW THAT’S GOING TOO FAR!!!” Okay I agree, my bad. I'm not comparing him directly too or the atrocities by Hitler…however people were really passionate when he spoke too. So it easy to see how unfounded discrimination (hate) can become the norm and spread quite easily.

      Do some research on the man before you condem my comments

      July 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      I don't like him, but he did wise up and start insisting that blacks be allowed at his appearances. He should have retired a long time ago and he should stay out of this. He's too firkin old.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "the playbook of the Left, which is to personally destroy anyone who disagrees with you. So, who is really filled with hate? "

      Fella, you can't tell him not to do it and then do it yourself. Go find a clue, and take your time about it.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:00 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.