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. hey

    The food at Chick-fil-a is more unnatural than gay marriage.

    July 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Truth Today

      Loaded with sodium and preservatives...contributes to obesity and heart problems. Why not talk about this or better yet take a stand against both.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      good. perhaps it will send the consumers off to see jeebus more quickly

      July 30, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  2. Steve

    Billy Garahm needs to take a hike, he seriously needs to take a long walk off a short peir.

    July 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  3. truth be told

    Each time Rev. Graham is the object of a false accusation here he receives a blessing from God and draws closer to Christ. Rant on 'mos' you can do nothing against the man of God.

    July 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      right. "man of god"...

      more like a bigot hiding behind a bible

      July 30, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    July 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Imagine No Religion

      So, have you ever threatened YOUR children with eternal dam nation? I haven't, but I'll bet you have!

      I challenge you to take the George Carlin Prayer Test. Pray to your imaginary god friend for a month, then pray to Joe Pesci for a month. You'll find the percentage of prayers answered by god, and those by Mr Pesci, will be about the same (50/50).

      "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry." - John Lennon

      July 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • 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 10:33 am |
  5. slrman

    Billy Graham has been a phony living from scamming the gullible all his life. Why should he stop now?

    July 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  6. Sandra

    To everyone in the world – folks, we are in a spiritual warfare. Will you prepare for the battle? God is clear – He loves us, but He has made it clear in His word – He hates sin. It is clear why He destroyed Sodom and Gommorah. This is real. Please understand – this is a warning. Repent now before it is too late.

    Will you prepare for the battle? While God is real, so is Satan. Satan is out to kill and destroy. Again, will you prepare for the battle? The trinity is: God, the Father, Jesus, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The battlefield on earth is about you and me: Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He made a way for us to be reconciled to God through his death. God is good and He allowed us to make choices in our lives. We are either for Him or against Him.

    May the power of the Holy Spirit bring conviction upon the world of this truth that I just shared with you. Jesus is the Light of the World – God can only protect those who obey His word and follow His truths. I am praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon everyone who seeks to know God's truth.

    In His word: Joel 2:28:

    "Afterward I will pour out my Spirit on everyone: your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your old people will have dreams, and your young people will see visions. At that time, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, both men and women. I will give warnings of that day in the sky and on the earth; there will be bloodshed, fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will turn red as blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. But all who ask the Lord for help will be saved.

    God bless you all.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • slrman

      Sandra, one word – proof. You have not a single piece of evidence that anything you believe is true. When you quote babble verses, you are admitting you have nothing rational or true to say.

      I can prove your god doesn't exist. What can you do?

      I have often said, presented with irrefutable evidence, I would have to change my position. WHat would it take for you to do that? I suspect there is nothing because you want to believe and to do that, you long ago rejected truth, reason, and rational thinking.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Sandra

      Slrman, I still love you brother. It is ok to disagree. I still will pray that the Holy Spirit will show His truth.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Sandra

      The Holy Scriptures are more than mere words. In 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instructions for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualifed and equipped to do every kind of good deed. And in Hebrews 4:12 : The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart. There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves. And one of my favorites: Rmans 12:2: Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

      July 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • JWT

      There is no reason why I should care what your god thinks about anything.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  7. Gary

    Billy is definetly part of the problem with this country. He has a history of predjudice against any religion that isn't his. Why wouold anyone liten to him any longer is a mystery to me.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Joyce Gibbs

      "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.

      How can anyone who claims to be a "christian" speak such horrible, demeaning words when describing the population of the country he resides that has provided him and his family with such a lucrative income for decades?

      July 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  8. Flaki Bigos

    I thought this ba5tard was dead.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  9. Casual Man

    He's got a purdy mouth.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  10. fritz

    I absolutely despise this guy going back years when I heard an old recording between Billy Graham and the criminal president Nixon. Nixon complained that something had to be done about the Jews in this country. Billy Graham concured wholeheartedly. They continued talking about how to put the squeeze on the Legislature to pass laws to descriminate against Jewish people. Much like how the Nazis started out with their own persecution of the Jews. Now I'm not much on the Jewish religion even though I'm half Jewish. But to hear that recording infuriated me. This man is a totally racist bigot and religious fraud. That goes for his idiot son as well. I wish this old f@rt would hurry up and die. I'm sick of his phoney Jew hating christian fundie nonsense.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • dbux

      Yeah, part of Nixon's and Graham's big plan of hatred against Jews was to have Henry Kissinger as one of the finest Secretaries of State the country has ever seen.

      July 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  11. Larry L

    I was raised in a Baptist home and spent the first twelve years listening to their sermons about peace & love. When I was old enough to think for myself I realized Christianity is a facade for the biggest hate cult in the World. A church in Mississippi refused to marry a couple this week – because they were African Americans in a "white" Baptist church. Maybe they should read their own mythology in Revelations 1:14–6...

    July 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  12. Robyn

    Whereever there is fear, hate and intolerance,
    Billy Graham will be leading the charge
    of taking good Christian people to Hell.

    Satan says, "Thumbs up, Billy!"

    July 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  13. Heath

    Blah, blah, blah. Glad to boycott Chick-fil-A: too much grease anyway. The Cathy family continues the grand southern tradition of clogging our minds and clogging our arteries while simultaneously telling the rest of us how we should live our lives.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  14. Ami

    Chick-Fil-A and the bronze aged tribal bible:

    July 29, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  15. VegasCarl

    Yeah this coming from the same crowd that includes Sarah Palin who believes the earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs and humans co-existed because she saw a dinosaur footprint and a human footprint on the same fossil!
    I believe it too!! The evidence is clear as day when you see these troglodytes that still live among us!

    July 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • JPX

      "Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A" Of course he did. When has Graham, who is on the wrong side of every social issue, ever done anything that wasn't self-serviving? Once again religion is used as a way to defend hatred and intolerance. How do you know "God" isn't gay?

      July 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Larry L

      How could Jesus be gay? Just because he never married, had an artistic profession, hung around with a bunch of men, and was kind and gentle doesn't mean.... hey... wait a minute...

      July 29, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  16. Pete Clarke

    I'm sure there are many evangelicals who will keep the profits flowing for Chick Fil A. hateful bigots that they are.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  17. NorEaster TC 6

    I will always stand with Jesus Yeshua the Messiah and the Bible,

    I won't stand with anyone in our country who opposes clean morals, morals are being thrown out the window as u can see a penalty has to be paid for this behavior.

    The majority of European nations & North America who voted for immorality are on the verge of financial collapse do u think that any politician can get straiten out the economy ? think who controls the rain, sun, disease etc this is the same person who created goverments and economies yes God!

    He has always held mankind resposible for their actions regardless of who they believe or don't believe; the time is coming when this world will see the true God creator of the universe I just hope u are ready for him and its looking pretty bad for u about now.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • JWT

      It all looks a lot better without god,

      July 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • electricbluecat

      You stand with Jesus? Funny because Jesus never said anything about disliking gay people. I believe his message was to love...

      July 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • slrman

      You stand with a myth. Jesus never existed. There is not ne contemporary account of any jesus.

      You also stand with the most hateful, intolerant, bigoted, segment of humanity. Does that make you feel good?

      July 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • slrman

      You stand with a myth. Jesus never existed. There is not one contemporary account of any jesus.

      You also stand with the most hateful, intolerant, bigoted, segment of humanity. Does that make you feel good?

      July 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Who me?

      It must be very comforting looking forward to the apocalypse with such delight and fervour.Gee,I wish I believed in a god that will rip the planet apart and save his chosen ones(the best flatterers),while the rest suffer in torment for eternity.I get a warm,fuzzy feeling,just thinking about it.No I don't...Your god sounds like something any sane person would run from, screaming,,as fast as possible

      July 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  18. Seyedibar

    No surprise there. Billy Graham has always been an open bigot. Remember his vocal stance on jews and blacks during the segregation years?

    July 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Honest broker

      Just in case anyone has forgotten...nothing ambiguous about his bigotry: http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/02/02/Graham_Nixon.html

      July 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  19. mkaile

    When we push God our of our lives, does He still exist. Of course! But we deny Him, and if we deny Him, He will deny us. If you abandoned your family, would you expect them to watch over and protect you when you were running from them? How could they, since you wouldn't allow it. How arrogant we are to expect God to protect and love us as we run rampant over anything good, and pretend He doesn't exist.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • JPX

      Wow, you sound like a nut. I've been an atheist my entire life and I'm having a great life. You can waste your time on such nonsense while I'm having fun with life.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • NorEaster TC 6


      U are right on point, I totally agree with u this world doesn't want repentance just self gratification.

      Remember many are on the road that leads to destruction but narrow is the road to heaven and few shall find it.

      Nevertheless ur message will touch the hearts of them who are ready to receive it, be of good courage keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah.

      A true believer,

      May God bless ur endeavors according to this divine will that was & still is in Christ Jesus

      Continue to stand and see the salvation of the Lord.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • JWT

      It is not pretending that all gods do not exist.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • slrman

      What god? Where is your proof of any god? You theists are a deluded group that has rejected truth, common sense, and rational thinking. Mostly because all of those are fatal to any religion. You want to believe, so all of those must be discarded.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Kay

      "I'm giving you free will because I love you...but it doesn't matter how much amazing good you do with that free will in your life, if you don't worship me, I'm going to punish you for all eternity" – do you truly not see the flaw in that???

      Like it or not, telling us that he will punish us for all eternity because we didn't worship him during the teeny tiny number of years we have on earth is *not* the description of a loving parent.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  20. gostoff

    once again we are listening to another idiot telling us we need to believe in something that does not exist snake oil anyone oh wait let me know some money down on Billy's feet hey Billy go blow smoke !! havent you dont enough harm in the world people the problems are having is not because we are not listening to poeple like this is because we are listening to people like this dont you get it

    July 29, 2012 at 9:47 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.