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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. Dan

    And in other news, Dick Cheney promised to vote Republican in the next election.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  2. hammer

    The people who defends you in public still joke about you behind your back.Nothing like thinking of two men loving each other.Does it smell like crap when you pull it out.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  3. Randy

    Someone always has to make it political! Dan Cathy just said what he believed, yet he's being crucified. Now Billy Graham writes this letter and some stupid reporter has to say it's tied to the Obama administration. So what? I'm not an Obama fan either, but why does everything have to be political? God Bless Billy Graham!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Dan

      People are held accountable for their thoughts and words.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which "god" did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • JKhur

      He uses corporate money to support groups tthat campaign in favor of denying your fellow citizens their civil rights. It's his actions that are at issue, not his beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  4. Lainie11

    Those of you who will not patronize Chick Fil-A because of their right to express their religious beliefs are the very people who would impose their immoral values on us. Chick Fil-A will get many more endorsements for their standing strong. In fact, we will take our family there more often because of this. Thank you Chick Fil-A.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Chuck

      I applaud your stance of hatred, intolerance and bigotry!! Bravo. While your at it. GFY!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  5. greenaxe

    ...and this guys credible why.......and he believes his opinion really matters????

    July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  6. Just a Little Sense

    Billy Graham sounds like a terrorist

    July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  7. Eli

    Yes I believe in freedom of speech, that also means I have the right to say Im not giving my money to a company that then turns around and donates million to a cause that I think is taken away someones freedom. What I find weird is that people are posting everywhere how the owners of this place is such good Christians and how they are closed on Sunday due to this but these same individuals leave church every Sunday and go to places that are open to eat and also go to Wal-mart and malls. If you think it is a sin to work on Sunday then you should not go to any places that are making their employs work due to the fact that you want to go eat or shop.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  8. Peruna

    Liberals.......proving once and again they are biggest bigots of them all. Tolerant of everything, except opposing opinions. There goal....a massive totalitarian state where social justice replaces liberty and individual freedom is scorned. In their world, there is no place opposing views those foolish to speak such ideas will pay dearly for their disobedience and independent thought.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Chuck

      You're hilarious.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Just a Little Sense

      Yea, how closed minded to be intolerant of intolerance.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Smurfette

      And delusional

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • phearis

      Yeah!! How selfish of people to want equal rights for all.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Son of the South

      You are right, Peruna! God bless America! All Americans--even the ones stupid enough to play around with the same s-e-x. God loves those people, too.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  9. Really?

    I've heard it said that that man is as old and as obsolete as that book of "truth" to which he so desperately cleaves. As a gay Christian, I do my best to remember that it is not my place to judge. So many "Christians" forget that. So many "Christians" are too busy picking and choosing which pieces of the Bible they'd like to apply to themselves, and which they'd like to apply to everyone else.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Right as Rain!

      Exactly! I think that christians should practice what they preach and practice the word of god. That includes the fact that god sees being gay as a sin.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Really?

      "...God sees gay as being a sin." Can you point me to the passage where God says this? I've looked but I can't find it. I do mean God, and not some scribe that was hired to write what King James told him to.
      Thanks!

      July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Shills

      That word 'judge' is used 114 times in New Testament including, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? I Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)

      I'll tell you, all of us need to leave the Bible in context and that goes for everyone. There's wrong judgment and good judgment. I get concerned of many people taking a verse or two and making it their life ... when left in context gives the whole truth.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • VanHagar

      @Really–I'm confused. You claim to be a Christian, and then imply that the Bible is not God's word. That is completely inconsistent. Explain.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Son of the South

      Right on, Shills! There is another: "Judge not after the manner of men, but judge righteous judgement."-–Jesus Christ.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Moo-rman!

    We should all just sit at a table and break bread, maybe some delicious chick-fil-a bread they use in their breakfast bites. Seriously, we should all just have an escape from new york thing with snake pliskin where we build an impenetrable wall around new york and just leave all the gays there to rot. Except for the hott lesbians. They can come stay with me.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  11. nitrous

    Isn't this guy dead already?

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Chuck

    His mind and teeth are decaying

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  13. Son of the South

    I agree with the good Reverend on this one. Yes, he has a right to his opinions, just as I do. And just as you have a right to your opinions, also. If you do not wish to support the Cathy Family and their interprise, that is quite alright: I shall support them for the both of us. God bless America, one and all.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Ouch.

      One and all....you do realize that this gay American is included in that statement, right? I'm also include in the statement "...liberty and justice for all."

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Son of the South

      Dear "OUCH": you do, indeed have liberty and justice. You have the liberty to be "gay" as you call it. You also have the court on your side IF you are ever physically attacked for your "gaiety." However, there is no reason to afford to you or any other self-made minority some sort of special right that Nature itself has not afforded you with. I am in no wise accountable to the minions of "political correctness" for my veiws, political or religeous. Now, remember that!

      July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  14. jo an

    Billy Graham is a fraud...why he has been put on a pedestal for years is beyond me... he collected huge amounts of money from those big crowds....HIs son Franklin is worse...he pays himself more than ONE MILLION A YEAR....as head of the Samaritan Purse and other things !! He has churches all over the U S collecting and assembling SHOE BOXES to send all over the world...yes there are useful items in the boxes and there are pamphlets about how the children will go to HELL if they don't CONFESS JESUS as savior...that is OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD...many boxes go to children of other religions...The Graham Empire needs to be OUTED!!

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Alex

      thought I'd nip this in the bud: Op. Christmas Child does NOT put pamphlets in their boxes. I volunteered at a shipping facility for them from Anaheim, CA and I was the guy who taped the box shut. NO pamphlets there, just toys and trinkets and school supplies, our way of showing love to a child thousands of miles away. Please do your research before you open your mouth. You're such an embarrassment to this thread.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  15. john

    Thats his bigoted son Franklin talking.Billy barely knows where he is

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  16. Armand

    Some christians used religion in the past to keep labeled groups 'under control' (like women and blacks) . But folks are getting smarter these days and will not put up with discrimination and prejudice. I believe it is such a sin to use religion to force prejudice among human beings.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Son of the South

      Were none of those two groups (women and Blacks) Christians? Or, were the "Christians" being referenced only populated by WHITE MEN?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  17. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    The article has it wrong from the beginning sentence: Billy Graham is not the dean of American evangelism. Elmer Gantry is the dean of American evangelism. Billy Graham is the dean of apostasy and the False Prophet. And since when has Graham ever kept his mouth shut, and his eyes on the life and teachings of Christ. Was it under Nixon? Reagan? The Bushes? He has always taken the side of the adversary of justice, rightness, and spoken against the Word of God. What does Christ have to say about gay people? NOTHING. He is silent on it, and you know full well he knew and associated with some of them as he did with other marginal people throughout his lifetime. So, for Billy Graham to set himself above God is not righteous at all, and twisting scripture to fit your own bigotry mold is not standing up for the Word, but rather trampling it underfoot. No muppet prizes for Mr. Graham. Let him, the blind, continue misleading the blind until they all fall in a ditch. Meanwhile, stay away from extremists and hate groups, liars and deceivers, and suddenly Graham's petty bigotry will roll off of you like water off a ducks back.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  18. sybaris

    Billy Graham

    The poster child for christianity......old.......frail......out of touch........diminished faculties........near death

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • K.R.K

      How much you want to bet that Christianity will outlast you, your kids, grandchildren and beyond. What makes you think something that has survived more than 2000 plus years will just die out just caues you say so??

      July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  19. solex

    Borrowed from another poster:

    Morals = Doing what is right no matter what
    Religion + Doing what you are told no matter what.

    And lastly: Hatred is NOT a family value.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  20. Chris

    Billy Graham is Correct. Just read Genesis Chapter 19.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Dan

      Do you believe everything in genesis?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • dashiel

      If your definition of marriage is the same as the definition of a mixed doubles tennis team, I think you’re rather missing the point.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • solex

      Billy Graham is influenced, not correct.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      After reading Genesis, perhaps you should try another book of fairy tales... the Bible has as many truths as Mother Goose...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
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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.