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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. DJ

    I fully support Chick-fill-A and their family values 100%. Many businesses blow their horn in favor of gay and abortion rights like starbucks but nobody is critical of their so called political correct statements.
    Chick fill will have my business along with the majority of Americans that believe what is right and truthful, rather than what pleases the media and liberal left.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Son of the South

      And (everyone who has any common sense left) said "Amen."

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • tokencode

      Actually the majority of americans now support gay marriage... but you can believe whatever you want, why start letting facts get in the way of your beliefs nows?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      What are family values ??? Judgement, Greed, Hate, "your way is right", imposing your values on others...........

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • rdeleys

      The so-called 'liberal left' shows a lot more compassion and regard for others than most Xtians. That's because we embrace the Enlightenment and think instead of living according to some 2000 year-old Bronze Age book of mythology.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • surfdog

      It appears to me, that the real haters are the gay rights proponents, who immediately dump on anyone who supports traditional marriage. What kind of country have we become when people who believe that marriage is for a man and a woman, are reviled and spit upon. Our country is going down the toilet...............

      July 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  2. Patriot

    Poor deluded, demented, old man,,, sad to see it.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  3. rdeleys

    Is there anyone more irrelevant today than Billy Graham? I doubt it. Who cares what he thinks?

    July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • tokencode

      The bible is pretty irrelevent...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Dr. B

      I think you are the one who is irrelevant. I have more respect for Dr. Graham than a foul-mouthed loser.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • beelzabarber

      the Pope maybe?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • surfdog

      I do. A lot of people do.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • tokencode

      Saying the bible is irrelevent is not being foul-mouthed.... and I really have no desire for you to respect me... in fact if you did I think I would be offended.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • rdeleys

      @ Dr. B - Foul-mouthed loser? You mean Franklin Graham?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  4. bob

    we always kind of laughed about "Jesus" chicken, what we have always called chik-fil-a. The problem I have is the funding of the anti-gay groups. This is enough to make me give it up, even though I love their food. McDonalds or somebody needs to come up with a decent knock-off.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  5. frhoads

    In the entire 6000 years since the earth was created, there's never been as forward a thinker as Billy Graham.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • tokencode

      Ahahahahaha if you believe the world is only 6,000 years old, I can see why you would think he is a forward thinker...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • BobZemko

      That's the best joke I've heard all week. Thanks for the laugh.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Wow

      Wow, really? 6,000 years??? So much for those dinosaur bones that are carbon-dated to show that they're from millions of years ago.
      Though this does bring up another interesting point....if you believe that the world is only 6,000 years old, then you also believe that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Tell me, how does reproduction work when there is only one woman amongst her husband and 2 sons? Surely you're not promoting incest...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • CVaughan

      you say a forward thinker like no other... perhaps
      but that does not include (thankfully) progressive, to name just one

      CVaughan

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • myVu

      Wow--Wow, hadn't YOU heard, that carbon dating has been tested on LIVE animals with the "results" indicating dead a million years. Absolutely hilarious!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • rdeleys

      @ myVu - That's complete bull. Who told you that? Pat Robertson? Incidentally, carbon dating is not suitable for dating things as old as dinosaur bones because the half-life is too short. Besides, the bones have been completely mineralized during fossilization so there's no bone material left.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  6. orion7x

    You are better than that Billy! dont let these guys drag you into the muck and the mire too!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • tokencode

      No he isn't he is an old hate-filled man...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • rdeleys

      He's anti-Semitic too.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  7. chris

    the biggest hypocrite in the world.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  8. truthBetold

    There's only ONE WAY [ Christ Jesus ],..the Narrow Way, for wide is the path that leads to destruction.

    Christians if someone insults you saying "you Christians are NARROW minded" , REJOICE !!!

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

      Yea ok. Believe whatever you want, but let others do the same. I personally think that the bible is a load of crap. Stop forcing your "narrowminded thoughts" on others...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • BobZemko

      Another one firmly brainwashed.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • tokencode

      PS. I know I will end up in Hell but don't really care.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Pditty

      Token means stop talking about your faith. No one is forcing any religion on you tolken.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • surfdog

      amen to that

      July 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • beelzabarber

      Yes! Rejoice! And then choose somebody else's business to put your nose in

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • tokencode

      Oh ow someone figured out how to post with my name... clever, do they teach that in Sunday school?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  9. Jackson

    Religion is a choice, and I don't think anyone should flaunt their choice of lifestyle in my face. If you believe in a religion, keep it in your home where it belongs and don't inflict your lifestyle choice on the rest of us.

    (see, that argument can work against *you* too)

    July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Son of the South

      I will learn to keep my religeon in my home probably about the same time that you learn to keep ur atheism in the privacy of ur home.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Daniel

      so what about the gay community flaunting their beliefs and lifestyle is people's faces. Is that ok?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Pete

      Daniel, gay people can't help it they were born that way.

      July 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  10. Melow

    Here is a company that it's name is "chick" Fill-A. Good for you. Almost 20% of this country are becoming gay. If it is in the air or the water, I am getting the heck out of here.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      You and others like you leaving...........PLEASE DON'T TEASE US.........

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

      Becoming gay???? Do you think it's infectious?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  11. Sarah

    He didn't say anything about hate. He is standing up for what he believes is true through the bible. Just because he thinks gay marriage is wrong doesn't mean he hates gay people...

    July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      He is judging others...........what does the Bible say about judging others????

      July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Andy

      Exactly. I think inter-racial marriage is wrong, but that doesn't mean I hate black people!

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

      Oh, that's precious, Sarah. Denying a segment of the population their civil rights is not "hate"? If not, then what is it?

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

      He is not judging others. He is following the laws in the bible.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      What about GREED Sarah........you didn't review that part of my posting.........or that doesn't work in your "Christian" agenda

      July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Andy

      Do you follow all of the laws in the bible, Sarah? I very much doubt it

      July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Janet

      "He is not judging others. He is following the laws in the bible."

      The Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is based on human ignorance, suspicion of those who are different, and an overwhelming concern for ensuring the survival of the people. Since the Bible regards homosexuality as a capital crime, it clearly assumes that homosexuality is a matter of free choice, a deliberate rebellion against God. We have learned from modern science that people do not choose to be gay or straight; hence it is neither logical nor moral to condemn those whose nature it is to be gay or lesbian.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Sarah

      I agree.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Sarah

      Andy, I never said I believed...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      John 7:24. English Standard Version (ESV). 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Sarah

      Please use verses in context. 6 verses should be good.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  12. 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) {Same Greek word 'judge'}

    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 the Bible gives the whole truth.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • tokencode

      The bible is a bunch of fairytales written by 3,000 year old shepards... not something you should live your life by or shove down other peoples throats... I only hope you use 3,000 year old medical practices as well

      July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  13. The lord

    Die already so you can meet Jesus!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Praying for you

      praying for you...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  14. Steve

    I am really having a hard time following what all of the uproar is over this situation with Chick-fil-A. I have eaten there many times and never once been discriminated against in even the slightest way. I have a co-worker whose friend is openly gay and works at one of their restuarants. And since when does it mean that you "hate" someone if you disagree with what they believe? That sounds a bit like communism to me – trying to get everyone to believe and behave the same way.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Chuck

      That is what the Christians do my friend. Invoke their system of beliefs on everyone to behave and believe a certain way.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Andy

      Not everyone has to agree, but gays need to be given the same marriage rights as straights.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      FYI..........gays do not have the same civil rights you have........what would you call that????

      July 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  15. WTH

    The world is better off with happy people but not "gay" people.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • tokencode

      The world is better off without hate mongers such as you and the scarecrow with rotting teeth pictured above.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  16. Chuck

    I love how Christians have taken the latest stance that they are being persecuted in America. Yeah okay, after many years of brainwashing, people have awoken to your pointless nonsensical drivel. It is a realization not a persecution. Dummies

    July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Son of the South

      No, we Christians are NOT being persecuted here in the dear old USA. I dont know where fellow Christians keep getting this "persecuted"thingy. Doesnt make sense since around 68% of Americans still claim to be believers in Jesus Christ and another 10 or 12% say that they aspire to some part of the Christian ethic. Persecuted? I think not............

      July 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  17. Isac Rodriguez

    I agree 100%....Lets get back to Jesus, and living moral lives. It is only the gospel that will change lives, if people will allow it. And quite excusing or justifying there inmoral acts.

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

      You do that, and the rest of us will try to move this country out of the 19th century

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Interested48

      Hasn't changed anything in 2000 years.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      You can start with the Judgement, Greed, Hate and the base of Christian believes

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  18. tokencode

    You know you're out of touch and wrong when billy graham supports your position.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  19. manofGod

    Indeed, yes.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  20. ZoeyJ

    Is Billy Graham speaking of Christian Faith or Christian HATE............

    When will the Christians speak out against GREED ???? Why do Christians ignore the sin of GREED ???

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

      Yeah no kidding. The religious right basically who res itself out to corporate america

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Son of the South

      We DO speak against GREEEEEEEED! That is a regular position of ours. However, there is nothing wrong with making MONEY. The "Love" of money is the root of ALL evil.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Andy

      Jesus thought there was something wrong with making money, or at least with making and keeping it

      July 26, 2012 at 6:36 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.