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. John Bracke

    It is simply not true that Billy Graham has been a-political. His strong support of Richard Nixon evident through his willingness to hold worship services in the White House, aided Nixon and Kissinger as they bombed Cambodian civilians. Graham's Christian vision was largely about privitized morality and he seems not to have grasped the larger social implications of Jesus' life and teaching.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  2. Mary Kaye Waterson

    Billy Graham doesn't tell me what to think. Why do you people allow him to tell YOU what to think? Read the Bible yourselves and interpret what Jesus said and didn't say for yourselves – that's why God gave you a brain.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • In Love

      Let those who have ears hear!

      Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3

      Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

      "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44

      Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

      Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:42-47

      July 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  3. hekillshe

    "moral Decay of America" well guess what billy boy. poop rolls downhill. perhaps you should direct your "holy" ire towards the politicians who do nothing but line their own pockets at the expense of those in your "flock"... There is no shortage of immoral activity going on in this country. and none of it has anything to do with two people loving each-other... get a clue Mr Graham. and those who would drink the Close your mind Kool Aid.. theres much more good in the world to be done, so instead rubberstamping segregation or hate of any kind... I have "faith" that somewhere up on an imaginary cloud jesus is shaking his head and looking at his watch. cause your times almost up pal... tick tock

    July 28, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Don Camp

      That's true. There is no shortage of immoral behavior. But does your statement imply that we should, therefore, keep quiet?

      July 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  4. 1amazed2u

    I do not agree totally 100% with Billy Graham in this day and age. Billy Graham is a man of god. A wonderful human being. It hurts me to see others make fun of him over issues. God bless you Billy Graham.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  5. Kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    July 28, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      I confess that Jesus is lord. You know what that means, right? I'm allowed back into heaven... along with Jim and Tammy Bakker, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell and Michelle Bachmann ( her soul was already in hell, trust me). Now that there is no more hell, you christians no longer need to fear the god you supposedly love. That means gays, pedofiles, muslims and even catholic priests now all go to heaven. You're welcome.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  6. arnold


    July 28, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • JWT

      That would depend on what your definition of right is. I kow a lot of people who stand up for what is right.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  7. mainenp

    Shock and surprise...the evangelist is against gay marriage. Did he even need to make a statement?

    July 28, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  8. choppertrash

    Graham is a whacko and completely irrelevant.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • truth be told

      To the other 99% of the world Reverend Graham is recognized everywhere as a devoted and effective servant of the living God.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      not quite, truth be told- at least 70% see him as a ca$h mining evangelist

      July 28, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • truth be told

      Nope, your numbers are as faulty as is your information. I have had personal involvement with the association and what you attest could not be farther from the truth.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 28, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      yeah, we now have world peace
      no crime
      churches are full, atheists and agnostics have all seen the light
      life threatening illnesses are a thing of the past,
      depression and other mental problems are overcome without medication.
      gosh, the list is endless
      who can count the things that have been changed with prayer?

      July 28, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • another repentant sinner

      My life has been changed by prayer.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      another repentant sinner: Very doubtful. You fail to take credit for your own efforts in this world by making that statement. There have been numerous studies done that prove prayer doesn't do a damn thing outside of acting as a placebo.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • another repentant sinner

      It is my life , I know what has happened in my life, tend to your own life and do not attempt to think for me, thank you,you do not appear to be that good at thinking in the first place.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      (p.s. didn't you previously post "prayer changes "stings" and "zings"?

      July 28, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • just sayin

      @aussie septic
      Atheist wanna bees oft times steal names to discredit those posting. Only the extremely gullible fall for the deception. God bless

      July 28, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  10. ethical hacking , pentesting, cyber ​​criminals monitoring

    Excellent points altogether, you just won a new reader. What might you recommend in regards to your put up that you made some days in the past? Any certain?

    July 28, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  11. 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 28, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  12. Jim

    I'm sorry, but how, exactly, is Billy Graham different from Fred Phelps?

    July 28, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  13. 1amazed2u


    July 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  14. Mike

    I dont support or like Billy Graham either.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • flounder

      Of course you dont. Satin hates him too. How do you like the company you are in?

      July 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  15. ArthurP

    A few excerpts from an article called: Marriage by Barbara G. Walker
    The word marriage came from the Latin maritare, union under the
    ausp.ices of the Goddess Aphrodite-Mari.  Because the Goddess's
    patronage was constantly invoked in every aspect of marriage, Christian
    fathers were opposed to the insti.tution.  Origen declared, "Matrimony
    is impure and unholy, a means of se.xual passion." St. Jerome said the
    primary purpose of a man of God was "to cut down with an ax of
    Virginity the wood of Marriage".(1)  St. Ambrose said marriage was a
    crime against god, because it changed the state of virginity that God
    gave every man and woman at birth.(2)
    St. Augustine flatly stated that marriage is a sin and St. Paul damned
    marriage with faint praise, remarking that to marry was only better
    than to burn( 1 cor. 7:9).
    Saturninus said God made only two kinds of people, good men and evil
    women.  Marriage perpetuated the deviltry of women, who dominated men
    through the magic of se.x(8).  Centuries later, St. Bernard still
    proclaimed that it was easier of a man to bring back the dead to life
    than to live with a woman without endangering ones soul.(9)
    Priests abandoned the churches' rule of celibacy and began to take
    wives during the 5th and 6th centuries.  This continued to the 11th
    century, when papal decretals commanded married clergymen to turn their
    wives out  of their homes and sell their children as slaves. (5)
    The church displayed remarkable reluctance to deal with the mater of
    marriage at all.  During the Middle Ages there was no ecclesiastical
    definition of a valid marriage nor of any contract to validate one.
    Churchmen seemed to have no ideas at all on the subject(6)
    The earliest form of Christian marriage was a simple blessing of the
    newly wedded, "in facie ecclesiae" –outside the churches closed
    doors– to keep the pollution of lust out of God's house.  This
    blessing was a technical violation of canon law, but it became popular
    and gradually won status.(7).
    There was no sacrament of marriage until the 16th century (3).
    Catholic scholars say the wedding ceremony was "imposed on" a reluctant
    church, and "nothing is more remarkable that the tardiness with which
    liturgical forms for the marriage ceremony were evolved."  It is
    perhaps not remarkable to find that these liturgical forms were not
    evolved by the church at all, but borrowed from pagan common law (4).
    1-William Fielding, Customs of Courtship and Marriage, 82, 114
    2-Robert Briffault, The Mothers, Vol 3, 373
    3-William Fielding, Customs of Courtship and Marriage, 233
    4-Robert Briffault, The Mothers, Vol 3, 248-249
    5-Jacobus de. Voragine, The Golden Legend 90-91
    6-Ronald Pearsall, The Worm in the Bud , 162-63
    7-Encyclopedia Britannica, "Marriage"
    8-Vern Bullough,The Subordinate se.x, 103, 112
    9-Joseph Cambell, Myths to Live By, 95

    July 27, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • M Houston

      "...It is perhaps not remarkable to find that these liturgical forms were not
      evolved by the church at all, but borrowed from pagan common law..."

      Pagan common law has always made more sense to me than any religious dogma ever could.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Reality

      "Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygyny. He refrained from judging the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygyny. On the contrary, he argued that the polygyny of the Fathers, which was tolerated by the Creator because of fertility, was a diversion from His original plan for human marriage. Augustine wrote: That the good purpose of marriage, however, is better promoted by one husband with one wife, than by a husband with several wives, is shown plainly enough by the very first union of a married pair, which was made by the Divine Being Himself.[17]"

      And St. Paul, he was not interested in marriage because he thought the world was going to end very soon.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Reality

      1 Corinthians 7:9

      English Standard Version (ESV)

      "9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."

      July 28, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      "And St. Paul, he was not interested in marriage because he thought the world was going to end very soon."
      St Paul wasn't acting with divine inspiration then, was he Reality-?
      If he got that bit horribly wrong what about the rest?

      July 28, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • JWT

      Tis better to marry AND burn with passion.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • AusieSceptic1

      best wishes to your wife and best woman in your life,
      may they never meet : )

      July 28, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  16. papa

    I bet "Sambos" used to be Graham's favorite restaurant chain before they closed in the 1970's

    July 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • mcalleyboy

      Sambo's, man I remember that place, I wonder if they didn't just change the name and become Deny's? Or some other breakfast type resturant, they had great pancakes, that's all I remember I was young.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • I wonder

      Wikipedia says:
      " in 1982 all but the original Sambo's at 216 West Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara, California, closed their doors.[6] By February 1983, 618 of the locations were renamed Season's Friendly Eating.[7] Several locations were sold to Denny's.[8]"

      I wonder if the Santa Barbara one is still going?

      Our local Sambo's became a "Season's", but it's long gone now too.

      July 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  17. Robert

    well one thing about GAAAAAYS and chic fa la . is.. it takes peoples minds off of zimmerman. But americans always have to have some one or some thing to ride to death on the news. all because this fast food place does not support sodomites. does not mean that there is a sighn on the door saying no sodomites allowed. get over it. stop acting stupid. not every one wants to or hass to support you people

    July 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who said you did?

      Eat there if you want. I won't.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • mema

      Tom...chick fil a is a business that offers a product, their not in any position to change laws. Their ceo simply stated that they support traditional marriage. There is nothing hateful about that view. So id your banker, utility company, mortgage lender, etc..has that view you would quit doing business with them as well? Its just a personal preference, not law. Quit being childish over a simple view point that harms no one.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  18. Jack

    Good evening folks. Everyone is invited to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    July 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  19. Chic-Filler

    Fill er up

    if you know what I mean.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  20. gliese 42

    I couldn't help laughing at some commentators who usually supports the religion of peace hitting out at Billy Graham and thats what I meant that we are invaded within. lol

    July 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
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About this blog

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.