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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. Cam

    I love the phony victim complex that the bigots claim.

    Lets see, Chik Fil A donates millions of dollars to groups that attack gay people, fight for laws that strip them of their rights, and even support a bill in the country of Uganda that called for gays to be killed. And yet gays saying they don't like that means poor Chik Fil A is the victim and gays are the attackers.

    If somebody sets your house on fire, they are the victim if you try to put it out. If Chik Fil A was giving money to support efforts to take the vote away from women, or deny Asians the right to adopt children we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    August 2, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Bob

      Soros gives money to gay organizations gays have gotten laws changed in Colorado so that if you think you are a man that you can go into the womens bathrooms. They have gotten people elected to office for the only purpose to further the gay agenda in a death blow for their own carer. NO people have ever voted for gay marriage it had to be a act of the courts or governmental leaders overriding the will of the people They have made progress by violence, lies and deceit then turn around and call us bigots and mean what a laugh. What a joke. They even tell us we cant even speak what we feel trying to make all feel bad about our convictions. They are not truthfull with the intent nor the scope of the changes they want either. Do you know how many support the gays against what we the majority of people want?? Of course not they dont want you to know that. So what do you call them that lie are actully vilolent partner with socialists and call you bigots for standing up for what you want

      August 2, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • YeahRight

      More lies from Bob....

      They have made progress by violence, lies and deceit then turn around and call us bigots and mean what a laugh. -LIE

      They even tell us we cant even speak what we feel trying to make all feel bad about our convictions. -LIE

      They are not truthfull with the intent nor the scope of the changes they want either. -LIE we have provided the actual research all you’ve done is lie

      Do you know how many support the gays against what we the majority of people want?? -LIE 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal

      August 2, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  2. ᾨ CHE ᾨ

    Yeb; I see the whittie DEVIL; Billy Graham doing his usual THING.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:06 am |
  3. ScottCA

    Who cares what this peddler of ancient lies says. Evangelists and all faith based prechers are just con men selling one of the oldest lies in history. There is no evidence of god, and there is no need to envoke a god to explain anything.

    Yahweh, Allah, Zues, Thor, Ra, and the flying spaghetti monster are all lies. God does not exist.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      There is no compelling religious argument against gay marriage; there is no compelling secular argument for gay marriage.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Greg

      God is self evident in all of His creation. Only a fool says in their heart there is no God.

      August 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Greg, Only an egotistical, self-deluded individual would claim with certainty that there is a god. You do realize you're basing your fantasy on a book written by men, claiming to be the voice of god, right? Sanity and the light of reality await you. There is great peace, joy and love here. You don't need fairy tales to give your existence meaning.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Bob

      The gay and atheist mantra just keep saying it over and over and over.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • ᾨ CHE ᾨ

      Yeb; they are the FAKES gospel peddlers Jesus talks about. Billy Graham is Satan-In-Chief on this earth.
      Do you know how many times this Devil have asked past US Presidents to wage WARS around the Globe claiming its God's Interest? His son's are the MOST CORRUPT humans on this earth.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • Greg

      Simple truth for simple men,
      No book is needed for man to know there is a creator. A question for the intellectuals, how did the universe come into existence? Answer: it was spoke into existence. There was a first cause. There is a Creator that transcends time and He has started in motion all things for His purpose. Whether you accept that TRUTH is between you and Him but you can not deny the TRUTH or you are lying to yourself.
      In Love

      August 2, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  4. Mohammed_Islam

    Dear Isaiah_Christian and M,

    You can say whatever you want to... Al Quran teaches that God created human in different nationality, ethnicity, language so that one can interact with other and then HE gave free will to every single one of the human... and every one of us will be held accountable for the using of this 'free will'.... if HE wanted to make every single human to believe in HIM alone without any association with HIM, HE could have... then where is the test? then there is no need of hell and heavens, no need of good and evil... every one will be a good one... but because of free will we have human doing wrong things to others in terms of preaching them to take them away from worshipping one God and so on... and also no will be accountable for others... its like you are on your own on that day and no counselor/helper... the only helper will be your good deeds that you have done in this earthly life...

    O our Lord, have mercy on us on that day as we all are sinner...

    Anyways, I hope you have read following verse where John wrote:

    John 14:26
    Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
    26 But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything; that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you.

    And so it is mentioned in the quran:

    And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, "O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad." But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, "This is obvious magic." Al Quran 61: 6

    Also if you would like to know what Jesus will be asked by his Creator on that day:

    Al Quran 5:17 And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.
    Al Quran 5:18 I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness.
    Al Quran 5:19 If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

    Now decision/choice is yours dear brothers and sisters in humanity...

    Peace!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • marv

      Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me. John 14 verse 6. Only Jesus died for the sins of the world, not Mohammed, not Allah, only one sacrifice and that was the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus will not be answering to no one, but every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

      The question is Jesus is coming back soon, are you ready for eternity. He loves you.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @ marv
      AMEN and AMEN!

      August 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Bob

      Jesus is alive and well and not a dead prophet. The Bible was written by many men all with revelation from God not one illiterate prophet. Buddha, Mohamed any other supposed holy man is dead and no religion but Christianity has ever had anyone rise from the dead and this was a fact witnessed by many people. There were many who had the revelation of Christianity and taught others the Muslims it was ONLY Mohamed. No other person has done the miracles that Jesus did and again there were witnesses to all of this. The gays are grabbing at straws and if they cannot subvert the Bible then they will attack anything they can to rid you of your faith. Dont misunderstand this is a attack make no mistake and most of these people responding are not gays they are atheists some are not even US citizens.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      You guys realize you're basically arguing over whether fairies have 6 wings or 4. Don't you? It's silly really. Find reality. Your life can only improve from it.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  5. Woody

    Same guy that said there is no loss in war since we are all but dead men anyway . Even the pres was there !

    August 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  6. Schmoogalicious

    When Billy Graham's generation is gone, support for gay rights will be the overwhelming norm in the US. He and others like him are fighting a losing (and ignoble) battle. His ideas on gays will be cast on the ash heap of history, along with those opposing racial, religious, ethnic, and gender equality. Deservedly so.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Paul

      And when that generation is gone, woe to those that are left to deal with the outpouring of sin and evil that will follow.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Valid point. There is definitely a generation gap between those who oppose gay marriage and those who support it. Take a look at the photos of people lining outside of Chick-fil-A and you will see mostly middle-aged and elderly. What you are witnessing is called a "paradigm change" and involves a new way of seeing something that was thought fixed and firm. Times of paradigm change are times of confusion and conflict that ends when the old generation dies off and the new generation which has been indoctrinated into the new paradigm takes over.
      As a comparison, at present German grammar is undergoing a major change. No one is trying to teach the new grammar to the old folks of the general public but only the new grammar is being taught in the schools. There wii be some amount of clash until the old generation dies aoo and the new becomes the unquestioned standard.
      But, please excuse us old fogies who think this paradigm change is wrong-headed and oppose it.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "And when that generation is gone, woe to those that are left to deal with the outpouring of sin and evil that will follow"
      There are many surprises awaiting the ungodly!

      August 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  7. M

    I'm praying for you today Lot, I mean S. Truett and Don Cathy!

    August 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  8. Susan

    What a surprise! Please say it isn't so Billy?

    August 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Paul

      Susan...are you reading your bible?

      August 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • ᾨ CHE ᾨ

      Pay this whittie DEVIL NO Mind.

      He's the FAKE, deceitful DEVIL Jesus talks about.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:14 am |
  9. CFAlove

    It's Dan Cathy, not Don. I will be happily eating CFA for dinner, like I did for breakfast and lunch because, no matter if I agree with their beliefs or not, they are actually standing up for what they believe in and sticking by it while still treating every single person the same way. Who does that these days?

    August 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Robert

      "they are actually standing up for what they believe in and sticking by it while still treating every single person the same way. "

      Unless your gay then he's against their civil rights to marry and protect their families. So every time you take a bite recognize you are in support of blocking someone's civil rights.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  10. GOD IS IMAGINARY

    Thought that old lunatic was dead years ago. Him and his ilk will be eradicated off the earth soon. Reason will prevail. Go Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc. Knowledge gained is forever.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Greg

      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

      August 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Paul

      Perhaps you might also want to consider broadening your reading with something from C.S. Lewis.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Greg, Fear is a reaction of the lizard brain. It's only the basest of human responses. It's time to evolve and start using reason and stop being paranoid reactionary beasts.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "It's time to evolve and start using reason and stop being paranoid reactionary beasts."
      Yeah, we've seen what this generation of godless ones have evolved into!! 'Beasts' is the right word!
      You've got nothing to brag about, buster!

      August 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Greg

      Fear(yirah(יִרְאָה) of the Lord = reverence to His precepts.
      For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
      “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
      In Love

      August 2, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      Pearls before swine. The truth awaits you when you're ready to awaken from your slumber.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Greg

      “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is narrow that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

      August 2, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  11. ART

    Tick Tock Tick Tock, he knows time is running out for him and its making him desperate.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  12. 2Cents

    "I think maybe people are getting tired of the small percent of the population kicking the silent majority around."

    The NAACP has passed a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage as a civil right, putting it stamp on an issue that has divided the black community.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's board voted at a leadership retreat in Miami on Saturday to back a resolution supporting marriage equality, calling the position consistent with the equal protection provision of the US constitution.

    "The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people," board chairwoman Roslyn M Brock said in a statement. "We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law."

    Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but 31 states have passed amendments to ban it.

    The NAACP vote came about two weeks after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage, setting off a flurry of political activity in a number of states. Obama's announcement followed vice-president Joe Biden's declaration in a television interview that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay couples marrying.

    "Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the fourteenth amendment of the United States constitution and equal protection of all people" said NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, a strong backer of gay rights.

    Gay marriage has divided the black community, with many religious leaders opposing it. In California, exit polls showed about 70% of black people opposed same-sex marriage in 2008. In Maryland, black religious leaders helped derail a gay marriage bill last year. But state lawmakers passed a gay marriage bill this year.

    Pew Research Center polls have found that African Americans have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years, but remain less supportive than other groups. A poll conducted in April showed 39% of African-Americans favor gay marriage, compared with 47% of white people. The poll showed 49% of black people and 43% of white people are opposed.

    The Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, applauded the NAACP's step.

    "We could not be more pleased with the NAACP's history-making vote – which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community," HRC president Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  13. YeahRight

    "Get out and support our businesses support freedom of speech support moral values"

    Bob is a proven liar to buy into his prejudice hatred toward the gay community. Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

    Social science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents—concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people—are unfounded. Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment, or overall well-being.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  14. Bob

    Get out and support our businesses support freedom of speech support moral values, Its about time that the retailers see where the real buying power is to support them not the minority

    August 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  15. PAUL

    SHAME ON YOU! GOD KNOWS I TRY!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmhJiZaB4b8

    August 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  16. Bob

    I hear they're all swamped today... The Chick Fil A I went to for lunch at was sure swamped...It was filled with people who had blood-drive t-shirts on, and Cancer fun-run t-shirts and people's grandmothers were there... a real hateful looking crowd!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Bob is a proven liar on this blog so take this comment for what is probably a repeat of his bad habit of lying.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  17. Bob

    I just ate lunch in a CFA here in Downtown Houston. It is in a food court. Must have been 300 people in line, took about 40 minutes to get to the order desk. My brother in Tomball Tx where we live said the CFA there has the line out the door and down the side of the bldg and the parking lots for several business around are packed and there is a line of cars up and down hyway 2920 waiting to get in the parking lot.
    I think maybe people are getting tired of the small percent of the population kicking the silent majority around.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Since Bob has been proven a liar on this blog take this comment for what it is just more lies.

      August 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Lilly Munster

      Houston? You think maybe there are a few bigots here, taking time out from their Klan Meetings to eat some chicken?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • commentsguy

      If Muslims were a silent majority in America you would be dead right now for not believing in Allah. A majority means nothing. The Majority is not more equal then the minority. Everyone has the same rights. If they don't then you may as well put the minority in front of a firing squad.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  18. 'Nother-son-'O-Ursus

    Graham praised restaurant founder S. Truett Cathy and son Don Cathy, the company's president, "for their strong stand for the Christian faith."

    I have never / will NEVER veat at chik-fil-a; I haven't worshipped in a 'christian', and/or, intolerant.monotheist – christin setting since 1965, which translates into an estimated $25-50K that have avoided the bishop's bail / civil punitive damages-slush funds...
    Not to mention Wee.Timmy Cardinal Dolan's 'golden parachutes for clerical-child molesters, w/o law enforcement notification' crime(s)!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  19. r stigo

    I have always tried to understand others and respect their opinions. We live in a free country (I least I hope so). It appears that every one opinions are OK if the are in line with what America considers Politically correct. But what ever happened to morally correct, spiritually correct, humanly correct. Why are we tainted and lead by political leaders that can't lead themselves out dumb situations. All these politicians attacking a resturant owner for his on personal belief are they for real? America has much bigger problems to solve. Anyway aren't they suppose to represent ALL people including the ones they don't necessarily agree with. If this continues we will be censored for just about anything we say. By the way I wonder if some one sneezes in front of one those "elected officials" do they say "bless you"? Where my great elected officials do blessings come from? you? I don't think so.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • uju

      nice one!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Paul

      Bang on! But it helps the Obama admin deflect attention from real matters! The left-wing press will push this for ever inch of space it can get.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  20. Phil Harvey

    But Bob, even though I am a bigot, it's only because I too am afraid to come out of the closet and proclaim myself a homes*xual before GOD! But I know that God loves everyone, even though I am filled with so much hatred, I realize that I am wrong and that I am the worst example of a christian on earth!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 11:45 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.