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. Woman

    All these good Christians have plenty to say about gays, but nothing to say against good old fashion adultery! Yee haw, that's good eatin.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Louie

      Well, what to you have to say about Sandusky?
      You obviously like his kind.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Louie, what does a pedophile have to do with this? Oh, I get it... You are too ignorant to know that pedophiles and gays aren't the same thing. Are you aware that there are pedophiles who victimize little girls? Obviously you're okay with them.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Woman

    If people boycott Chick Fil A, they will change their tune. Money talks.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Louie

      I doubt many people in the south agree with you. Maybe 10 or 15.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    Obama knows that thing is wrong, but too he knows how to count votes.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm |

    The thing, perversion, is against common sense.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Which is why we must fight when we see people attempt to pervert the laws of this country. There isn't a single shred of evidence to support the existence of any god, but there is ample evidence showing that human se.xuality, even hom.os.exuaity, is determined in the womb. What is more perverse then using human-created mythology to discriminate against a group of people who had no choice in the matter?

      July 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  5. Sra. Julia

    I would love to write some pithy comment to jab at Billy Graham, but sparing with a delusional sick old man is not my style. Time has moved on, things have changed and are changing whether the likes of the Grahams or anyone else likes it. Pick up the step and get with the 21st century folks hating gays is on the way out like hating blacks was a few decades ago it's over it's done.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Child of God

      Times may have changed, but God's views have not. Sin is still sin even if you put lipstick on it.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • midwest rail

      And thankfully we are not a theocracy.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Equivoco

      Señora Julia, christians don't hate gays, they love the sinner, but hate the sin. People and businesses have the right to express their views on morality and not be force fed, that which they think is wrong.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • midwest rail

      The Big Lie as practiced by the contemporary faux Christian – Love the sinner, hate the sin. They then go on their merry way spewing hatred, ignorance, and bigotry.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What christians fail to do, is prove that their god even exists. They want to tell people how to live, but they have yet to establish any more authority than the bullying tactics of superior numbers.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • JWT

      They are not sinners iof they are not part of your particular group of religion.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  6. Scot

    Old White Guys Suck ! YEAH,I KNOW I'm ONE, So WHAT Bloe me ya Whippersnapper

    July 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  7. Real Solutions

    I think Rick Santorum made a great point when he was running..IF you're going to redefine "marriage" for the purpose of visiting someone in the hospital, obtaining equal access to health benefits, filing joint returns, then look at the entire legal definition. If 1 man wants to have 2 wives, legalize it. If 1 woman wants 2 husbands, include it. If 3 guys want to commit to living together for the rest of their lives and supporting each other in a "marriage" then include that too.
    Marriage began in history for the main purpose of picking out a mate and procreating and having a big family of sons to tend the sheep and til the land. Since we're not a nation of farmers anymore, redefine it to what people are wanting to use it for. A "partnership" that may last for a few years (the majority end in divorce anyway) that will allow people access to another person's property, benefits and a little help on your taxes.

    That is what this is mainly about, I for one am tired of hearing about it while most jobs and businesses move out of the country. Of course no one cares that China has a 7.5% corporate tax rate, one of the lowest in the world, or anything else that is causing our current business and job opportunities to disappear. Maybe when we're last place in the world in manufacturing, IT technology, medical technology, new creative business ideas this issue won't matter because there'll be no money to pay taxes on, purchase health insurance with, etc.

    July 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  8. jjw903

    geez all this DRAMA, he was ASKED where he stood and he is so religious he does not open on Sundays so where did everyone think he stood, at least he is not a hypocrite and choses to close his business on Sundays (and lose that precious money) if I did not hate gays before, I sure could hate them now, bravo

    July 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  9. Julie

    I support Mr Cathey and they will have plenty of business now probably more than ever.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  10. jean

    I'm waiting for the restaurant to come out and say what they think about other topics near and dear to the GOP's hearts like birth control and immigrants.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  11. Jim

    They certainly have a right to their opinion and I would defend that right to the end.
    They also have a right to watch their business tank when they lose as many paying customers as they will.
    If you sell chicken....just sell chicken and when someone purchases it smile and say thank you and keep your nose out of their bedrooms.

    July 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • pervert alert

      There are not enough qu eers to make a dent in someones business even if they all boycotted at the same time. Who wants to eat around disease ridden fairies anyway. Qu eers the people who gave the world AIDS.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • duckforcover

      I'm sure they would accept money from customers who are Gay, Lesbian, Islamic, Budhist, Satanists, or whatever. Money trumps morals ever time!!!

      July 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Naija

    Billy Graham can take his choppers out and suck my balls,who listen to the racist mutta anyways.

    July 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Haywood Jablomie

      Thanks for the good laugh. When he's done with yours, he can work on mine.

      July 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  13. beau

    Is Mitt Romney Secretly Stashing Money In Offshore Bank Accounts?

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/where-is-mitt-romney-secretly-hiding-his-money-2012-7#ixzz1zatyoMLI

    With a personal net worth estimated to be as high $250 million, Mitt Romney is one of the richest men ever to run for the White House. But he has been remarkably reticent when it comes to his financial records, disclosing the bare minimum required by federal campaign law.
    In an eye-opening new investigation for Vanity Fair, reporter Nicholas Shaxson attempts to blow the lid off this secrecy, diving deep into the limited paper trail to explore some of the shadier ways that the Romney family has made, invested, and perhaps hid, his millions.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/where-is-mitt-romney-secretly-hiding-his-money-2012-7#ixzz1zapeWXqd

    So what does Romney stand FOR? He is so desperate he is taking statements President Obama made and editing them into the opposite of the President said and making false lying TV ads of it. President Obama NEVER said business owners did not build their businesses. Romney cut short what President Obama said and did not include the full statement or even the context of what the President was saying. I dont vote for liars who stand for NOTHING, hide their wealth in foreign countries to avoid paying taxes, hide their tax returns, had their financial records when running the Olympics SHREDDED and all his emails as Governor permanently DESTROYED. Only a corrupt man with no character, no principles, no honor, no leadership and no credible solutions for anything does such things. I stand with the President as he continues to act like a leader, prove his credentials, his values, his work is for the PEOPLE, and that he can handle issues both foreign and domestic with great skill and thought.

    July 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Real Solutions

      Yes, Mitt Romney is really rich. That's terrible! Maybe if he's elected he want have to bow down to lobbyist for kick backs and do special favors for other people with money. Don't be so naive ... 65% of congressmen and senators are millionaires and above...DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS. I'd say most represent their wealth and own interests as much or above the American public. I'd also speculate that the other 35% of congressmen and senators aren't far behind the millionaire mark themselves.

      Here's a shocker, there isn't ONE representative in the congress, senate or white house that lives the "average American life" or paycheck to paycheck.

      July 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  14. Susan Weber


    July 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  15. Mary

    People can live however they choose, but being GLBT doesn't mean your a victim just because no one wants to know what you like doing nasty in your PERSONAL life. GLBT is all about preference. They say what they want and belive and live accordingly so why are they always crying when someone doesn't want to live and beleive like them?

    America is not free and if they take away a persons right to believe what they choose, then next they'll be forcing you to live like them or your a hate monger and intolerant and whatever other twisted thinking they choose. Afterall if you have the money and the power/support then you can call innocense evil and the rest of the idiots will beleive it.

    "The FOOL has said in his heart there is no God." But yet they want to beleive they have monkey parents. Lol

    July 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Mary, there is more evidence to show that hom.os.exuaity is determined in the womb than there is evidence to support the existence of any god. Gays and lesbians are born with their orientation. You have chosen (or your parents chose) your religion, and that religion is merely one of many.

      Literally thousands of gods have been worshiped throughout the history of humanity, many of them thousands of years before your god was even invented. Of active religions, the hindu pantheon is older than the judeo-christian tradition.

      Aside from that, this is the United States. The men who framed our Const.itution very deliberately separated church and state to protect the rights of the individual. They had the wisdom to understand that freedom can't exist within a theocracy.

      So not only are you wrong about gays and lesbians, you are also wrong about the United States. If there is any evil here, it is you.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • John

      Thank you Mary for your opinion. I totally agree. Anymore if one disagrees with the left they are considered a hater. If you are against president Obama you are considered a racist and the list goes on and on. Thank's again for your post.

      July 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      John, it is what is is. You can believe what you want, but when you try to legislate bigotry on the basis of religious choice and not fact, you are behaving in a hateful manner. There is more proof that hom.os.exuality is determined in the womb than there is proof of any god. Why should the people who support the freedom and equality that are the basis of this country allow the sort of blatant, unfair and ignorant discrimination supported by Chick-fil-a?

      July 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • L

      Talluluh13..why are you so threatened?

      July 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      L, I am not threatened. I am simply an American who supports equal rights. I am against discrimination based on personal opinion because it's unjust. You can believe whatever you want, even if that belief is based on god for which there is not a single shred of evidence. But when you try to legislate your personal belief into laws that harm others, then it becomes a matter of public interest.

      Scientific studies generally show that hom.os.exuality is determined in the womb. As I mentioned earlier, there is no such evidence to support the existence of any god. My question to you: Why do christians think that discrimination based on their personal supersti.tion should be reason to legislate bigotry against people who were born with a different orientation then them?

      July 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Prince

      Talullah13 definitely knows where she, he or it is going when her, his or it's time is over here on earth.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Prince, as far as I can tell, when I die I'll be dead. Just like every thing and everyone who has ever or will ever live. There is no practical reason to believe that there is anything after death. However, if one fears their own mortality, it must be appealing to believe in a heaven for which there isn't even the slightest piece of evidence.

      At least when I die, I'll die knowing that I didn't choose to unfairly discriminate against others because I was a moral coward, refusing to do the right thing for fear of losing a spot in a make-believe afterlife.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  16. C.Q.

    Can everyone, for just a second think about what is being done here. How is it right to push your own beliefs onto others? You have the right to speak your mind, but when it is to the point of imposing hate and such things onto others you are acting pretty twisted. This country was built with a purpose, to gain religious freedom, and yet everyone wants to enforce their own.

    Also, why is it that everyone fails to mention other sins that are being commited everyday? Don't those things deserve to be addressed and dues to be paid for them as well? How about taking a minute to climb off your high horses, crack open your bible and read it cover to cover?

    July 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and all living things

      Prayer makes baby Jesus cry. Stop praying, its a complete waste of time. There is no god, Jesus was not the son of a god,
      and a fricken snake never spoke.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      Wrong,wrong, wrong , wrong,wrong
      and wrong.
      God bless

      July 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Yes, religion is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

      I will set you on fire. Its my job.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • truth be told

      lucifer has no job and no authority. lucifer will be the first cast into the lake of fire for eternal torment and will be unable to harm anyone else there.

      July 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • just sayin

      For those not smart enough to understand conversation, just sayin was responding to the accuracy of the previous post. God bless

      July 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  18. BrownSugar

    I am so very proud of the Chick-Fil-A!!! The man has every right to voice his opinions just like all these gay people do. What he said about God is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! This man has the law and God on his side-nothing and noone will be able to block his sucess. GAY PEOPLE: You need to realize that you will NEVER be accepted because GAY PEOPLE ARE NOT NORMAL-THEY ARE MENTALLY DISTURBED. AND YOU NEED TO STOP GETTING SO MAD BECAUSE EVERYBODY DOES NOT EMBRACE YOU WITH OPEN ARMS-THIS MAN IS NOT A HATE MONGER OR A CHRISTOFASCIST HE IS A GOOD AND SMART AND STRONG CHRISTIAN AND HE IS RIGHT. GAY PEOPLE: COOK YOUR OWN CHICKEN.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Sine the owner of these fine dining establishments believe gays are an abomination, I've instructed the most flamboyant gay couples to visit their local chick-fill-a grease bucket and kiss publicly, which will soon turn each one into a gay hangout.
      Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There is more proof to show that people are born gay than there is proof of any god. Gays and lesbians live in your community, paying taxes, supporting schools, falling in love and forming families - just like heteros.exuals. They would like the legal protection that marriage affords a family, but people like you prevent that, not because of any facts, but because you are blinded to reality by the religion you CHOSE to follow.

      It's always been a fight for minorities to get equal rights. This is no different. But history and truth are on the side of those you discriminate against. Already the tide of public opinion is turning in favor of same-se.x marriage. It's just a matter of time.

      July 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Frank

    Like Chick-fil-a and if the owner thinks this way, it's his right. Free speech, remember? Or does it only come to mind when there is something the gay rights groups want?
    come on...

    July 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Stop fighting it frank, you're a man lover.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Hooray

      Its disgusting is what it is. Just one more step closer to saying, you know, hitler was on to some good ideas....

      July 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Katie

      Hooray – Were you paying attention when your teacher taught you about the Holocaust?! Where did you get the idea that killing 11+ million people was a good thing?

      July 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  20. Baruch

    Graham has been a cancer on this country for decades, promoting theocracy and hate. I know many are duped by his mellow manner, but he's been a hate monger and a christofascist for my whole life, and publicly so. Time for Mr. Graham to stop dishing out his poison.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Don't worry, he's all mine. Tick,tick,tick,tick..........

      July 28, 2012 at 2:10 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.