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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."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"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. Science

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

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    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

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    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

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    Science

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

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    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

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    Make sure to read comments

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  5. Tired_of_Ignorance

    Its Dan Cathy not Don, Dan. At least get the names of the people you're reporting on correct. One more indication that media is not only ignorant but also too lazy to do the slightest amount of research on the topic their reporting. Sad, really. Oh well, im glad that the thousands of people commenting on this article found the time in their busy schedules of helping others and evoking real change in the world to do their Christian duty by bashing other people and their beliefs. Oh wait. They weren't doing those things because today what it means to be a Christian is to sit on your lazy butt in front of your computer and post comments under news articles that state your opinions and put others down with judgement and hatred. If you want to reform people why dont you start with yourself and get off the internet and do something worth while.

    October 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  6. alan

    interesting that Jim Henson no longer wishes to display his graven images at Chick-fil-A after learning that they oppose his views and has opted to partner with the king of graven images; disney himself.

    two words: oh well

    September 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  7. zacchaeus atung baba

    I am a young evangelist from Nigeria struggling to brings lost souls to God but my effort seems inactive,sir i beg you in the name of God Yahweh consider my request.I wants you to train me so that i will be one of the Joshua Moses trained for the work of God's kingdom.I am waiting for your reply,thank you sir, God bless.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Lee

      read the Word, study the Word, and preach the Word. The Word of God is the power of God unto salvation.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  8. Chutney

    Why is it that an otherwise intelligent man like Billy Graham can be so simple minded as to think that there is any real condemnation in the bible of those of us that are born gay or transgender? The so called biblical definition of marriage is a sham. Biblical figures often had several wives, concubines and female slaves. The model of marriage that is being held up to society today as the traditional example of marriage has nothing to do with scripture so much as it has to do with political and social power. Views on marriage and ceremony change with each generation. What we are seeing now are the death throes of another bygone era, just another form of segregation being laid to rest.

    August 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • alan

      isn't it a lame argument that anyone that disagrees with your beliefs is not intelligent ? what you demonstrate is that you can't respect the views of others unless they agree with your beliefs.

      two words: limp, lame

      September 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  9. Jackie

    I support gay marriage.. but I also believe in free speech and freedom of religion.. two things that make our country the greatest country in the world.. Don Cathy may be a bigot or full of hate but his comments weren't.. he said nothing negative or in any denounced gay rights... he was simply stating his own opinion and last time I checked that was still legal. The gay community would have more supporters if they stopped making a spectacle out of situations where there shouldnt have been one... just saying.

    August 10, 2012 at 10:28 am |
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  11. LoveLiveLove

    To all the upset straight folks. You may deny the right to love and marry, all you wish. You may turn your heads at the sight of a same gender kiss. But like it or not gay people have always existed and always will exist. If you choose to hate, refuse to see and continue to hold tight to your bible, your traditions of marriage will destroy family's. You allow us the right to exist but refuse us the right to live. You have allowed your bible, your traditions of marriage to speak hate. You have allowed your opinion to prevent my right to love, to live. You will not make me love someone I do not. You will not prevent me from loving someone I do. I can not expect you to give me the right to love, to live. For it is not yours to give. I have the right to love, to live I gave it to myself. It was mine to give. It will be mine to marry. You will know it, It was never your choice.
    -LOVE-

    August 4, 2012 at 2:59 am |
    • Minister Joey Farris

      What you are saying might have some truth in it if we evolved; But since we were created by a thrice holy God, that told us about marrying, who :(marry whom you will, only in the Lord), and how: ( Thou shalt not lay with mankind as with womankind), then in order to please him :(Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life...) we have to abstain from this.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • correctlycenter

      The only h a t e most people see is the perverted demonstations from the "alternative lifestyle" folks. Folks who agree with God are supporting the owner of Chick-fil-a without drawing much attention on themselves. Those who support the g a y lifestyle have a right to make f o o l s of yourselves I guess. God bless and give all the glory to the LORD God Almighty...

      August 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
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  13. Stephenson

    Jesus never preached anything about gay love. He didn't have to because he covered the issue with a much broader concept, he taught us that we must learn to love all our fellow humans, and that only God himself will judge us.

    That's simple enough for most anyone to understand.

    I get it.

    August 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Greg

      Jesus said, "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

      He did not come the first time to judge but to save the world from their sins; however the 2nd time He comes it will be to pass judgement and the saints will be judging with Him.

      In Love

      August 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      He did prefer the company of men, so to me his message was pretty clear.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Greg

      GodFreeNow,
      How is it that you know the preference of the Lord Jesus?

      August 3, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Greg, Just like you know Jesus is the savior... He ran around with 12 disciples... he commanded people to leave their families to follow him. He refused to help a woman until she equated herself with a dog. One of his earliest followers thought it was an abomination to touch women, but if you're going to, you should get married. Let's just say these don't really sound like men who have an apeti.te for women.

      August 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  14. Michael

    This one goes out to all you fundamentalist Christians out there. Selah! I may be too narrow addressing this to just the fundamentalists. Many traditional Christians also fit the bill. Really, it’s anyone who believes that homosexuality is a sin, and that somehow God, infinite and eternal creator and sustainer of the very Universe, is ‘against’ a tiny human behavior that harms no one. So, in other words, uneducated and ridiculous people everywhere.

    Officially, the majority of Christian churches say that homosexual behavior is a sin, thus proving that the theologians behind those churches don’t understand their own Bible. There are a whole bunch of goofball laws written down in the Old Testament that everyone ignores. Why is being bigoted toward homosexuals the one people latch onto?

    The various Christian brands go through the Old Testament, picking and choosing the parts they consider cool. No one accepts the whole thing. No one. I mean, when was the last time a cheating spouse was actually put to death in keeping with the commandments of the Bible?

    Using the Old Testament to determine if something is a sin is simply a matter of human and not godly opinion. It’s meaningless and certainly not ‘the word of God’. His teachings aren’t some basket of fruit for you to pick over. You either have to accept the old law in its entirety and start killing lots and lots of people or reject it in its entirety. Hand-picking the stuff you like is bogus, especially when you only pick the stuff that seems to legitimize your meanness to other people.

    So the Old Testament is out.

    Before we all start playing REM’s “Losing My Religion,” consider this denying someone the right to marry is not Christian, and certainly not American.

    The people who are opposed to gay marriage, and by extension, gayness itself have no excuse. They are bigots and bigots alone. They can’t use their special book to justify their hate, even according to the special book itself. They have no one to thank but themselves. They take the Lord’s name in vain and feel righteous about it

    Yes, they take the Lord’s name in vain. Most people believe incorrectly that this commandment is about cussing, but it’s not. It’s about using God for yourself, for your own vain (personal) ends. They hold the Bible in the air and use it like a bitch to bolster their own prejudices and bigotry and hate and that is vanity, all is vanity.

    The teachings of Christ are plain enough: love and forgiveness, tolerance and healing, acceptance and rebellion. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing more needed. Add what you will to it; it still won’t be from the Christ. It will come from your own (black?) heart.

    Jesus Christ is the origin of the word ‘Christian’. Perhaps we should pray about that a bit more.

    Today’s Christians tend to be followers, accepting of the notion that religion is just a box built by someone else into which they must stuff their spirit. They are naive and willingly line up like lemmings wherever told. They have a casual ignorance that tells them the Beast will come in the obvious guise of science or secularism or liberality. They cannot conceive of the Father of Lies actually lying to them.

    Sinclair Lewis said that when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying the cross. When the Beast comes to the world, you can bet your sweet ass he will be thumping the Bible and preaching a hate disguised as love.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • William Pelegrini

      Your comments reveal how bigot, ignorant and repugnant you are.

      You have a disorder buddy. Get over it.

      August 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Greg

      Sinclair Lewis an alcoholic who died in his sin is not the best person to quote.

      Jesus said, "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." & " Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father(God) is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful priode of life, is not from the Father(God), but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts: but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

      We are to be holy for He is holy.

      In Love

      August 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Sinclair Lewis an alcoholic who died in his sin is not the best person to quote."

      Prove it. LMAO!

      August 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Greg

      YeahRight, what do you want proven, that Sinclair is dead or that he died due to alcoholism?

      August 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  15. John

    "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."

    Some argue that since homosexual behavior is "unnatural" it is contrary to the order of creation. Behind this pronouncement are stereotypical definitions of masculinity and femininity that reflect rigid gender categories of patriarchal society. There is nothing unnatural about any shared love, even between two of the same gender, if that experience calls both partners to a fuller state of being. Contemporary research is uncovering new facts that are producing a rising conviction that homosexuality, far from being a sickness, sin, perversion or unnatural act, is a healthy, natural and affirming form of human sexuality for some people. Findings indicate that homosexuality is a given fact in the nature of a significant portion of people, and that it is unchangeable.

    Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, "I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good'." . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed, and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world.

    There are few biblical references to homosexuality. The first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is often quoted to prove that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But the real sin of Sodom was the unwillingness of the city's men to observe the laws of hospitality. The intention was to insult the stranger by forcing him to take the female role in the sex act. The biblical narrative approves Lot's offer of his virgin daughters to satisfy the sexual demands of the mob. How many would say, "This is the word of the Lord"? When the Bible is quoted literally, it might be well for the one quoting to read the text in its entirety.

    Leviticus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, condemns homosexual behaviour, at least for males. Yet, "abomination", the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexuality, is the same word used to describe a menstruating woman. Paul is the most quoted source in the battle to condemn homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and Romans 1: 26-27). But homosexual activity was regarded by Paul as a punishment visited upon idolaters by God because of their unfaithfulness. Homosexuality was not the sin but the punishment.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with arsenokoitus, or male prostitute, was meant to refer to the passive and active males in a homosexual liaison.

    Thus, it appears that Paul would not approve of homosexual behavior. But was Paul's opinion about homosexuality accurate, or was it limited by the lack of scientific knowledge in his day and infected by prejudice born of ignorance? An examination of some of Paul's other assumptions and conclusions will help answer this question. Who today would share Paul's anti-Semitic attitude, his belief that the authority of the state was not to be challenged, or that all women ought to be veiled? In these attitudes Paul's thinking has been challenged and transcended even by the church! Is Paul's commentary on homosexuality more absolute than some of his other antiquated, culturally conditioned ideas?

    Three other references in the New Testament (in Timothy, Jude and 2 Peter) appear to be limited to condemnation of male sex slaves in the first instance, and to showing examples (Sodom and Gomorrah) of God's destruction of unbelievers and heretics (in Jude and 2 Peter respectively).

    That is all that Scripture has to say about homosexuality. Even if one is a biblical literalist, these references do not build an ironclad case for condemnation. If one is not a biblical literalist there is no case at all, nothing but prejudice born of ignorance, that attacks people whose only crime is to be born with an unchangeable sexual predisposition toward those of their own sex.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  16. Jesus Christ

    You are possibly the biggest idiot I've ever created and boy do I regret it! First of all Buddhism is a HUGE thriving religion on the earth. Actually, it's listed as the fastest growing religion because people are tired of all the hatred and war that my religion, christianity, is throwing upon the world. I've not come back for 2000 years and I'm not interested in ever coming back. Look at what you're all doing in MY NAME. Why would I want to have anything to do with you so called "Christians"? Get a life Bob, get and education and for pete's sake, get off welfare!

    August 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  17. God is the creation, We are the Creator

    The most corrupt evangelist i've ever met throughout my life.
    At least Joe Margio admitted he was acting his whole christian career, but this guy... he thinks he's doing it for God. From what I see, Power Fame and Wealth drive him

    August 2, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  18. 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.

    August 2, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • midwest rail

      You really need to do a better job of balancing those meds, Bob. They may put the ankle monitor back on.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Bob

      Well Middy I'm waiting to see what is wrong

      August 2, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Bob

      I"m living on welfare. I'm taking everyones money while I sit here in my trailer court picking on gays because I'm the biggest, fattest, ugliest gay man there is..so I'm jealous!

      August 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Jesus Christ

      Bob, please get a job. You post your nasty, illiterate hatred on here, hour after hour after hour. Do you REALLY think people give you any credence?

      August 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • YeahRight

      "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"

      Yo moron, Al Gore won the popular majority vote beating George Bush but because of the electrical Bush one. The vote of the people didn't matter. This country is founded on check and balances for a reason. If this country used your stupid logic then African Americans and women would have never got their civil rights either.

      August 2, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • YeahRight

      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 11:04 am |
  19. S.N.Rao

    Evangelism is the worst form of racism.

    August 2, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  20. Slowgun

    "His open letter also contains a fund-raising appeal"

    There you go...the true reason why religion exist...money & power

    August 2, 2012 at 8:20 am |
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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.