Franklin Graham: Putin is better on gay issues than Obama

(RNS) Evangelist Franklin Graham is praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggressive crackdown on homosexuality, saying his record on protecting children from gay “propaganda” is better than President Obama’s “shameful” embrace of gay rights.

Evangelist Billy Graham (r), with son Franklin Graham, at a crusade in New York on Sunday (June 26). Photo by Michael Falco

Evangelist Billy Graham, right, with son Franklin Graham, at a crusade in New York in 2005. Photo by Michael Falco

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Graham, who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started by his famous father, praises Putin in the March issue of the group’s Decision magazine for signing a bill that imposes fines for adults who promote “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

The Russian law came under heavy criticism from gay rights activists, and from Obama, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In response, Obama included openly gay athletes as part of the official U.S. delegation to Sochi.

“In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues,” Graham writes. “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

“Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.”

With the caveat that “I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham nonetheless praised Russia’s get-tough approach toward gay rights.

“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?”

Graham also implicitly seems to side with Putin’s ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the ongoing civil war that has claimed more than 140,000 lives. Syria’s small Christian population has largely sided with the Assad regime throughout the three-year conflict.

“Syria, for all its problems, at least has a constitution that guarantees equal protection of citizens,” Graham writes. “Around the world, we have seen that this is essential where Christians are a minority and are not protected. … Christians in Syria know that if the radicals overthrow Assad, there will be widespread persecution and wholesale slaughter of Christians.”

Graham’s father was a virulent anti-Communist in his early years; in 1949 he called communism “a religion that is inspired, directed, and motivated by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God.” But as he took his message around the world, he softened his rhetoric on a host of issues, including politics and hot-button fronts in the culture wars.

“If I had it to do over again, I would avoid any semblance of involvement in partisan politics,” the elder Graham, now 95, wrote in his 1997 autobiography, “Just As I Am.”

Billy Graham

Billy Graham toured the Moscow Synagogue during his 12-day visit to the Soviet Union on Sept. 15, 1984. RNS file photo

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

For years, Billy Graham sought to take his gospel behind the Iron Curtain, ultimately preaching to huge crowds in Moscow in 1982. At the time, Putin was a young agent in the KGB. “In fact, he was in charge of monitoring foreigners in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) when my father preached there in 1984,” the younger Graham wrote. “If he was eavesdropping on our meeting, which I hope he was, he heard the Gospel!”

Since Franklin Graham took over in 2001, he has steered the Graham franchise in a more political direction by openly questioning President Obama’s faith, endorsing a North Carolina measure that banned gay marriage, calling Islam an “evil and wicked religion” and implicitly endorsing Mitt Romney’s 2012 White House bid.

Michael Hamilton, who has studied the Graham legacy as a historian at Seattle Pacific University, said both father and son have been known to wade into controversy, but Franklin Graham responds differently.

“When the firestorm would hit, Billy Graham would always backtrack or walk back his comments in some way,” Hamilton said. “But when the firestorm hits Franklin, he doesn’t seem to really care.”

Hamilton also questioned why Franklin Graham — who has received wide praise for his relief work through his organization Samaritan’s Purse — didn’t approach Syria through the lens of “its enormous humanitarian crisis.”

A spokeswoman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said Friday (March 14) that Franklin Graham was traveling and unavailable for comment. A statement from BGEA noted his article went to press before the current crisis in Ukraine that’s pitted Putin and Russia against the West.

“Franklin Graham consistently encourages Christians to be informed and take a stand for biblical values and biblical truth,” the statement said. “The Putin cover article was a way to provoke engagement of readers on this important issue and encourage further thought, prayer, and action.”

But Marianne Duddy-Burke, who heads the gay Catholic group DignityUSA and is a member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable of gay-friendly religious groups, said she’s met with gay and lesbian Russians who have been beaten, stabbed and burned as Russia cracks down.

“It’s really disturbing when a religious leader seems to endorse laws that lead to this kind of behavior,” she said.

(Adelle M. Banks and Cathy Lynn Grossman contributed to this report)


The post Franklin Graham: Putin is better on gay issues than Obama appeared first on Religion News Service.

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  1. There is a constant and growing testimony by thousands upon thousands of LGBT people that they cannot ever recall a time in which they consciously chose their sexual orientation. In spite of this fact, there continue to be many, many conservative religious people who insist that one’s sexual orientation is a “lifestyle choice” and that the deliberate choosing of said lifestyle is a wicked and demonic choice. As long as folks like Franklin Graham assuage their own deep fear and angst by claiming that the Bible can be (mis)interpreted to support their own judgmental agenda in this aspect of life, we will have this kind of pathetic, unloving division within the Body of Christ and the non-Christian world will remain put off by the gap between our words of love and acceptance and our lives of hate and judgment.

  2. Is it possible that they may say that in order to alleviate, in their own minds at least, the responsibility before God, of what His Word clearly and inarguably calls sin? Graham hasn’t reached his convictions by fear, unless it’s the fear that God commends, godly fear of His truth and our rejection of it. Sometimes division is necessary to separate from sinful doctrine. Jesus demanded it in his appraisal of the churches in Rev. 2 & 3, even regarding sins of immorality. I would rather be obedient to Christ than men.

    • Dennis: What if what the Bible is “clearly and inarguably calling sin” is homosexual behavior engaged in by persons presumed to be heterosexual in orientation? I have no problem with that claim. But, where in the text does any Biblical author suggest any awareness whatsoever of the concept of persons being born homosexual in the very nature of their being? Could this be part of the reason why Jesus himself said absolutely nothing on the subject? Is it possible that much of the virulent opposition to the acceptance of alternate sexual orientations within the church community stems from a profound ignorance of the very nature of biological predisposition to sexual orientation itself?

  3. Mark, I’d have to say it’s not mentioned because it is not true. God declares His Word to be truth. But in support biblically I would go to Romans 1:18-27. I don’t think it could be stated more clearly that the natural (their nature) function of a man is to be with a woman and for the woman to be with a man. Not to be too graphic, they fit together almost as if they were made that way! Homosexuality seems from this passage and others to be more like the result of the more basic sin of rejecting who God truly is for a false god of their own making, whereby God then gives them over to this degrading lifestyle (v. 26). I think that the rejection of the openly homosexual lifestyle by the church ( the biblical definition being the called out ones faithful to Jesus Christ) comes from heart conviction to follow The Lord Jesus Christ and obey His Word.

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