Evangelist Billy Graham died Wednesday
at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 99.
According to a spokesman for the
family, Graham died in his sleep.
The Southern Baptist minister has been
called one of the most influential preachers of the 20th
century. The son of a dairy farmer, Graham hosted an annual
evangelistic campaign, the Billy Graham Crusades, from 1947 to
2005, and a popular radio show, the Hour of Decision, from
1950 to 1954. He reached millions through television and radio.
Graham provided spiritual counsel for
every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. President
Donald Trump was one of the more than 800 guests who attended
Graham's 95th birthday celebration in 2013.
Graham is often described as a moderate
preacher who refused to pass judgment on people. Most of his
obituaries praise Graham's record on civil rights – he invited
Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him on one of his crusades – but
fail to mention he opposed LGBT rights.
“My calling is to preach the love of
God and the forgiveness of God,” Graham told Larry King in 2005.
“In my earlier ministry, I did the same [as other fundamentalists
preachers], but as I got older I guess I became more mellow and more
forgiving and more loving.”
Graham was deeply opposed to same-sex
relationships. He once told a woman who wrote to him that her
“misdirected” affection for another woman “will be judged by
God's holy standards,” the HuffPost
reported. He also told the woman that Christ could “heal” her of
her same-sex attraction.
Graham, in 1993, asked whether AIDS is
“a judgment of God” during a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “I could
not be sure, but I think so,” he told the crowd. He later told the
Cleveland Plain Dealer that he “immediately regretted” the
remark. “To say that God has judged people with AIDS would be very
wrong and cruel,” he said. “I would like to say that I am very
sorry for what I said.”
In 2012, Graham also backed passage of
a North Carolina constitutional amendment which would define marriage
as a heterosexual union. His endorsement came in a full-page ad
which appeared in several newspapers. “The Bible is clear –
God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to
urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment
on Tuesday, May 8.” Voters approved the amendment.
But by the 1990s, the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was being run by Graham's son,
Franklin Graham, a vocal opponent of LGBT rights. Some suspect that
the younger Graham was behind placement of the ad and that his
father, who was 93 at the time and in poor health, was not involved.
Franklin Graham, who took part in
Trump's inauguration, has praised
Russian President Vladimir Putin's opposition to LGBT rights, has
warned that marriage
equality will lead to the “disintegration of our culture,”
President Barack Obama's support for same-sex marriage, has
called for the repeal of local LGBT protections, has called for a
boycott of Disney over its inclusion of LGBT characters, has
a “sin,” and has said
that he is not afraid to have his head “chopped off” for opposing