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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. yneeemee

    As a gay man who likes Chik-Fill-A.... who cares – they take our $$$ and provide us some food. If you don't want to eat there, don't but geesh stop making such a big deal out of everything

    July 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      that is the way to feel you have a right to do what you want and they have the same

      July 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • JKhur

      And some of the money you spend there is then given to anti gay groups that work to deny you your civil rights. That's the problem. Cathy can be as big a fool as he wants. he can believe whatever he wants, say what he wants. But when he helps fund groups that want to legislate our fellow citizens civil rights away, he crosses the line.

      July 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  2. Pditty

    Want to see hate. Check out the discussions on this forum. The liberal progressive types consistently "out hate" conservatives. They are a hateful bunch read above and below if you don't believe me.

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

      That's because we hate hatred

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

      Gays = Hatred of anyone that doesn't agree with them.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • sybaris

      Conservative definition of Hate:

      Opposing views and facts

      July 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Chucky Upchuck

      They are just trying to play catch-up. (so-called) Christians have had two thousand years to spew their hateful venom on the world...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Pditty

      Thanks all for making my point.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  3. virginia

    Evil has being winning in America that is why we've being losing-if you look around all looks filthy and durty cause the presence of God is need it to feel save form evil- all i see is dirty cars not that are not new its jsut that people are afraid to watched them cause evil minds...its not that you can't repair your homes inside and out is that envy fills the hearts of evil doers properity aludes those of dark hearts...good things come to those who dwell safetly near God's presence...

    July 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • sybaris

      Fail

      If what you say is true then all non-christian countries and regions on the planet should be in total chaos and that is simply not the case.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • I'm suddenly ashamed to live in Virginia

      In retrospect, maybe you shouldn't have dropped out of school in the fourth grade.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  4. randomguy

    Oh boy, loony tune times. "Preacher Brandishes AK47 for Chicken Nuggets".
    Why on Earth did this CEO have to associate his chicken joints with politics? Not too smart on a business level. I can just see so many funny protests to take place in the future. Actually, let me take all of this back. I'm loving this controversy! Makes life interesting, ya know.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Chucky Upchuck

    Billy Graham = Pat Robertson = Jerry Falwell = American Taliban = terrorists

    July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Chucky Upchuck

      Billy Graham = Pat Robertson = Jerry Falwell = American Taliban = terrorists=gays

      July 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  6. Chris

    You aren't dead yet Billy? Hurry it up.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      he may out live you be careful

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  7. DKeys

    There is all this talk about intolerance of others life styles and viewpoints. What I don't understand is how is that blasting of intolerance of Christians any different? Seems to be quite a bit of intolerance and hate for people who choose to live Christian lives. Why is it OK for someone to say they support gay marriage while it is not OK for someone else to say they don't support gay marriage? Chicago's mayor seems to be very intolerant... doesn't seem to want to walk his own talk.

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

      Gays are a perfect example of hatred. Read these posts and see all the names they call Christian people.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      aman

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Smurfette

      "I don't support the right of black people to be free from slavery." If I actually believed that I would surely hope that someone – no, everyone – would blast me. Or would such people be intolerant of my viewpoint? You're assuming that all viewpoints and opinions have equal validity – they don't. What is equal is the rights of people to hold and express viewpoints. What is also equal is the right of people to criticize the viewpoints of others.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • QS

      There is a very simple difference – anti-gay people think they can control other people through law by denying them legal rights...pro-gay people understand that religious people have their rights to believe and worship freely, but not to discriminate against others via the law based on religious beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Gays are a perfect example of hatred. Read these posts and see all the names they call Christian people."

      Not everyone posting on here is gay, many are straight and atheists. Why do Christians lie so much.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  8. DJ

    If you don't like what Chic-fil-A opinion on gay marriage than don't go there. I for one agree with them regarding gay marriage. It is against natural and moral law. I don't support starbucks because of their pro gay and abortion views. Simple as that..

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

      Thankfully people like you and Graham are dying

      July 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Pditty

      Compare DJ and Andy's posts and you decide who is hateful.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Andy

      There's no hate in my statement, it's simply factual. Once ignorant, superst itious people die out the rest of us will be far better off

      July 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "It is against natural and moral law"

      No it's not, homosexuality has been document in over 1500 other species so it's totally natural. The experts have stated 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."

      July 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  9. Juan

    Are we all supposed to be surprised by this news? It's like saying Elton John supports LogoTV.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  10. Jeffision

    This was all about raising money. Religious people are running out of people to demonize for cash. They're creating gay hatred and milking it for all they can before Americans stop believing them. Shame.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  11. hammer

    I find it funny that everyone wants to make this a religious war against q-u-e-e-r-s.Most men whether they believe in god or not still think you're sick.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  12. tokencode

    I plan on marrying my grandfather. We have had a relationship for over 21 years and we love each other.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      go for it the bible allows it,.. i think you in immoral monster and you should be jailed for destroying the sanct.ity of marriage but i also think so should 4/5 of Christians for getting a divorce,.. luckily i also think its immoral to push my morals on others and laws should not be based in morality to enforce morality, but to enforced the people right to life, liberty, and property

      July 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  13. maximusvad

    Billy has every right to defend those that pass judgment on others. Christians are THE biggest hypocrites.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      the bible says the saints will Judge the world

      July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  14. Clark_Nova

    Graham's brain died decades ago but his mouth goes on and on and on.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  15. QS

    "Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word."

    No, it mustn't, for the simple fact that not everybody can even agree on what their preferred version of "god" is.

    What the bigot Mr. Graham actually means is that his personal, individual religious belief should be the law of the land, and nobody else's.

    Doesn't really get any more un-American than that.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Billy also supports stoning and can't figure out where all the good blood letting clinics have gone.

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

      Lol. Well played good sir. Well played.

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

      PS. I am bound for Hell and really don't care.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  17. YeahRight

    "Many businesses blow their horn in favor of gay"

    Well Duh! It's about civil rights. Marriage was defined by the US Supreme Court as a civil right. Recognized federal civil rights law in the United States is grounded in the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. By this standard, marriage has long been established as a civil right.

    The operative constitutional text is section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. The relevant passages read as follows:

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

    A federal appeals court on May 31st ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it denies equal rights for legally married same-sex couples, making it likely that the Supreme Court will consider the politically divisive issue for the first time in its next term. This most likely will be decided in the courts and since most courts keep ruling in gays favor they should be able to over turn all the unconstitutional laws prejudice bigots have been trying to pass.

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

      How can the U.S. possibly rule on something that IT DID NOT CREATE???? Marriage PRE-DATES this nation and every other nation on earth. Marriage was created by God FROM THE BEGINNING to be between a man and a woman.

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

      Wanna talk about biblical marriage? There's an awful lot of polygamy in Genesis

      July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • myVu

      Andy, there's a LOT of things in a whole lot of the books of the Bible. They're there to point out to you right and wrong, good and evil. The right way and the WRONG way.

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

      Hmm that's not what I got from it. Abraham and Isaac both kept concubines around and never seemed to be punished for it or anything.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Marriage was created by God FROM THE BEGINNING to be between a man and a woman."

      Oh so you should support incest, a woman who's husband dies who they don't have a son must sleep with his brothers, a woman has to marry her rapist, a man can have multiple wives, etc... Marriage long existed even before the bible. Plus this country was founded on separation of church and state for a reason.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Pditty

      If it was about equal rights the Gay community and Christian could have found common ground with civil unions out of respect for Christians. No, they wanted the language Marriage. Again ok to offend Christians. I don't want Gay people to be denied access to their loved ones in times of emergency etc. According to my faith Gay people are living a lifestyle that is wrong but we are told to love them like brothers and sisters. And the majority of us do. Seems compromise is a one way street on this issue.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Andy

      Pditty: many of us couldn't give a s*** about your beliefs, so why should your beliefs infringe on our civil rights?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Pete

      Pditty, is that why North Carolina banned civil unions for gay couples?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  18. Jesse

    His name is Dan Cathy, not Don.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  19. Bob

    Billy Graham has shot his wad, and needs to quietly fade out.

    Enough with his bible banging nonsense.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. LAGuy

    There is a Sodom and Gommorah of today. It is popularly known as Vatican City.

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

      Um....Graham isn't Catholic.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 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.