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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. jamest297

    If dog had meant for there to be a Chic-A-Fill, it would be in the bible. Is it in the bible?

    July 29, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  2. jamest297

    Billy Graham's uselessness is more evident now than ever.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  3. PC3

    Billy Graham is a schmuck.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  4. Stefan Radu

    Billy Graham said that our standards should always be measured by the word of God. Where in the word of God does he find the commandment: "Remember the first day of the week to keep it holy?" This is a man made commandment, and such commandments, put in the place of God's commandments, were condemned by Jesus Christ in Matthew 15,1-9.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  5. Thomas

    Is this some evangelical communion service? You're gay or a lesbian, so you can't eat my slaughtered chicken sandwich with a Coke? Oy! I'm so glad Rev. Franklin leaped on this issue and not on, say the Colorado shootings or the ongoing disaster that is Afghanistan. Sooooo glad!

    July 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • zeus_z

      I dont think theY EVER said gays were not allowed in Chik fila, all they SAID was they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  6. stankfinger

    Billy Graham is correct in his assessemnt of the USA of today! I laud him to speak truthfully and not with a political viewpoint in his assessment! This country lives the way of Soddom and Gomorrah just prior to their destruction by fire and brimstone!

    July 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • chefdugan

      Graham is probably the sorriest SOB I have ever encountered. He has made a wonderful living dishing out his BS and I sincerely hope he gets the chance to meet his god ASAP. Maybe then wee won't have to listen to this crap!

      July 29, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  7. Shawn Irwin

    If "god" is so omnipotent and powerful, what need would he have for some puny human to defend him? When a preacher feels the need to defend a business, that is a seriously . . . . laughable matter.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Barnes

      It's Basic, being gay can be your choice, we will all answer for every choice we made one day, is it normal? No, if it was none of us would be having this discussion, because we wouldn't be here.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • chefdugan

      I agree with you completely. I am praying that you get to grow beyond your stupidity and face life without the crutch of religion. Do you think "he" will answer my prayers?

      July 29, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Chuck

      Actually, atheism makes you more tolerant and accepting of others. I'm not going to refuse to marry a black couple, or chastise gay people, or want to get rid of Muslim americans, etc. etc. It isn't healthy to teach children to be intolerant self righteous people either. I'm happy with my decision to be an agnostic. I believe god exists or very likely exists, but religion is the problem. Religion teaches intolerance. It teaches exclusion. It teaches violence. It teaches hatred and discrimination. It's been the cause of many wars in our history. I want no part of it.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Chris

      Liberals showing their true colors again.
      The only people forcing their religion on others is liberals.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Chuck

      @Chris It's funny how they have you conditioned to equate your religion with politics. That's how they control who you vote for.. Religion and politics are supposed to be separate but republicans have been able to equate voting for them with god and religion. Even though 99% of their policies are decidedly not Christlike.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:57 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 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  9. Peter

    Does this fool even know his own mane? Nasty children of his fighting over his Ministry ($$$$$$$) for years, feed him some of that greasy Chick fil A crap, he'll be dead and in hell in a week

    July 29, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Chant81

      Can't stand this phony money maker.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Chant81

      Can't stand this phony money maker. And who cares what he thinks or says.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Elliot Carlin

      THE WHACK JOBS ARE OUT IN FULL FORCE TODAY.

      July 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  10. independent jim

    Billy Graham is not and never has been a christian .. he has made millions preaching hate and division .. He is more in line with the KKK than God

    July 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • hal mason

      chuck-full h8! greasy food for greasy people

      July 29, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • mabear87

      I could not agree with you more. He has never practices the teachings of Jesus in his life. I doubt if he has ever read the New
      testament. He is just another con man taking money from dumb southerners who are flim flammed by religion.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Chant81

      You said it all!

      July 29, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • gma

      Jim really I just can't see where he has been preaching hate and division. He is on the record as an antiSemite that is true. And some of his other privately held views are probably just as bad. But his public messages in his "billy graham crusades" – I've never heard a message of hate there. But I agree that he is a bigot and huckster.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  11. Michael Loux

    Where is the tolerance and love the Bible teaches?

    July 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  12. Richard

    When Richard Nixon was President Billy Graham was heard on tapes slurring Jews, of course a few years ago he apologized for this when the public found out. So he already has racist and discrimination history. Who cares what he thinks.

    July 29, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  13. Diana

    Thank you Chick-fil-a, I made a point of eating there this past Friday in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Already the gay marriage issure has started to change anything to do with family, here in CA kids can have more than 2 parents. These freaks of nature are now given the chance to bring kids into their homes. God only knows what they are doing to those kids.

    July 29, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Mirosal

      Bigoted AND arrogant aren't you? Any other pearls of unfounded "wisdom" you'd like to share with the class? I have news for you... take a look at family abu'se statistics. How many of those parents are straight? How many are gay?

      July 29, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Robert

      Probably raising them with love and compassion and not abusing them like half the priests in the Catholic Church. Oh by the way Billy Grahams net worth is said to be about $25 million dollars. There's money in Jeezus, that's for sure.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  14. Purpleday

    I will be eating at Chick-fil-a on Wednesday!!!

    July 29, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Peter

      Hope you choke!

      July 29, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  15. Howdy1.2

    Fact, gay marriage will not break down the bulding block of marriage, in fact 1/2 of newly weds will get a divorce in the US. So how about we focus on more important issues such as gun and drug control?

    July 29, 2012 at 3:57 am |
  16. abner

    A modern day John the Baptist – unfortunately has not fulfilled his mission !

    July 29, 2012 at 3:47 am |
  17. Rush

    Amazes me people still take guys like this seriously..... just flat amazing – and to think this man is filthy rich and has never done an honest days work in his life.......must be very nice to not have a conscience.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • Chant81

      Your so right. How people fall for this guy is beyand me

      July 29, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  18. noillusion

    Had no idea this bigot was still breathing.

    July 29, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Nelson

      Yes unfortunately. If he is going to start flailing over a "hot-button" issue, I'd like for him to explain his anti-semitic rhetoric in Nixon's oval office. He's never come clean over that. He's a class A posturing fraud.

      July 29, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • Diana

      Bigot?? So any Christian who decides to get scared enough to dismiss God and his word is OK in your head? Its in the Bible and I like BG and other Christians who will not back down, NO GAY MARRIAGE. Next will be the pedaphilles, they will want their rights too. All this crap started in Hollywood where they turned their backs on marriage period by shacking up, being faithful in marriage, lying, stealing and now gay marriage.

      July 29, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Peter

      He never was, he is Satan incarnate!

      July 29, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  19. bj412

    Wow, when Billy Graham comes out to defend you, you must be on the wrong side of the issue.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Nelson

      Yep well said. I'm just so well pleased to see the many people who despise Bill Graham and recognize him as the posturing clown he is.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  20. Tony

    I do not see what the big deal is. At somepoint and time everybody forgot what America is all about. The freedom to have a opinion. Chic fil a does not have to like or support gay marriages. Is is dumb to make comments like they have and possiably lose customers, sure but they have the freedom to do so. Any person as the right to choose not eat there and are they missing out on some of best chicken sandwiches sure but that is there right.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • tallulah13

      The problem isn't the opinion, or even speaking about it. The problem is the financial support to a group that is actively trying to create laws that are discriminatory. Potential customers who would spend money at Chick-fil-a should know exactly where that money is going. If those potential customers are uncomfortable with supporting bigotry, they will take their business elsewhere.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:12 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.