Rev. Billy Graham, at 93 the senior statesman among Christian leaders in America, says he’s rooting for his longtime friends, the Cathy family, in a nasty public blowup over their religious beliefs.
“I want to express my support for my good friends Truett Cathy and his son Dan Cathy, and for their strong stand for the Christian faith,” he said in a statement released by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“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. Chick-fil-A serves each of its customers with excellence, and treats everyone like a neighbor. It’s easy to see why Chick-fil-A has become so popular across America,” he said.
Over the past few days, the Henson Co., creator of the Muppets characters, said it no longer would work with Chick-fil-A. The mayor of Boston publicly bashed the restaurant chain. Chicago officials said they would not want the company to operate in their wards. And “kiss-in” protests were announced in front of company outlets on college campuses.
All brought on by advocates for homosexual behavior because Dan Cathy, whose father, Truett Cathy, founded the $4 billion-plus a year business, gave an interview to the Baptist Press.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy said.
In a separate radio interview, Dan Cathy said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. ‘I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we can try to define what marriage is all about.”
Graham said 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,” he said.
“I also appreciate Gov. Mike Huckabee’s leadership and for encouraging Americans to support Chick-fil-A on August 1. As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday,” Graham said.
The BGEA noted Graham rarely inserts himself into public disputes but will when the issue primarily is moral, not political.
The longtime evangelist, author, speaker, leader and counselor to presidents last spoke out earlier this year when he urged North Carolina voters to support an amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Voters approved the measure, resoundingly, May 8.
At the time, Graham said in an AP report that watching “the moral decline of our country causes me great concern.”
“I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected,” he said.
“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” Graham said, according to the AP. “The Bible is clear – God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.”
The report quoted William Martin, the author of Graham biography “A Prophet With Honor,” saying that while Graham often preached about the need for sexual purity, he rarely spoke about same-sex marriage.
Graham last preached at a crusade in 2005, but in 2010 Barack Obama “made a pilgrimage” to meet him, according to the AP.
The meeting continued a tradition of presidents consulting with Graham that began with Dwight Eisenhower.
Among the recent attacks on the Cathy family:
- Boston’s Democrat Mayor Thomas Menino wrote to Dan Cathy, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”
- Chicago officials said they wouldn’t allow the permits needed for a Chick-fil-A to be built in their district.
- Homosexual “kiss-in” protests were planned at college campus locations of the store.
- The Henson Co. announced it would not longer work with Chick-fil-A.
But as WND reported, hundreds of thousands of people across America are pledging to support Chick-fil-A restaurants.
A Facebook campaign has been launched by Huckabee seeking to build support for the chicken-sandwich chain famous for closing its stores on Sundays so employees can attend church if they choose.
Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, invited Americans to join him Wednesday, Aug. 1, for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” Some supporters are advocating showing support every Wednesday.
He noted the company now is a $4 billion a year effort with more than 1,600 stores.
“The militant homosexual advocates have launched an all out assault on Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, pushing for a boycott because the Cathy family has contributed to traditional marriage organizations. The attempts to hurt or destroy Chick-fil-A is nothing short of economic bullying. In the name of ‘tolerance,’ there is an effort being mounted to put pressure on people to stop eating at Chick-fil-A. Even worse is the vilification of the company and its employees. The Christian world view of Dan Cathy is being met with intolerance and vicious hate speech,” Huckabee’s announcement said.
“I ask you to join me in speaking out to your constituency via Facebook, Twitter, email, broadcast, etc., to make Wednesday, August 1 ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.’ No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate. The goal is simple: Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.”
On Facebook and other social media websites, vitriolic attacks on the family and company continue.
Shirley Stanton of Orlando, Fla., said: “Even though I don’t live in Boston, I am proud of their mayor. Thomas Menino is truly someone Boston should be proud of and praise.”
But some social networkers are identifying the crux of the issue.
Jon Untiedt said: “Sounds like Boston is discriminating against Chick-fil-A’s CEO’s First Amendment rights.”
And Keith S. Brooks said: “A mayor urging a company to keep its taxes and jobs out of his city is absurd. Keep the personal preferences of ones private life, private. Let the market dictate what people will or wont participate in. But suggesting to a business that the personal feelings of their CEO should be the measuring stick of whether or not they are allowed to conduct business in your city is, at the very least, a seriously slippery slope. I’m from Boston. Yes, they are prideful. They are also knuckle headed. What happens if a strong Christian becomes the mayor of Boston and he decides he doesn’t want Home Depot in the city of Boston anymore because they support gay marriage? Would it be OK for that mayor to suggest the company take its millions of dollars in taxes and hundreds of jobs and kick rocks? Dangerous stuff here. And I have many gay friends, but this kind of grandstanding by a mayor who is looking for sympathy votes for his next election is cowardly and has NO place in an intelligent society.”
Valorie Phillips wrote, “I love the double standard that Jim Henson’s company is expressing by not … accepting Christians’ belief in the biblical definition of marriage.”
John Hayward at Human Events said the attacks are reaching unhealthy levels.
“The name of the game being played against Chick-fil-A involved ending the discussion, by ruling one side of this important social debate completely out of order, and dismissing their beliefs as unworthy of respect. All resistance to gay marriage is instantly transmuted into personal hatred of gay people. On the other hand, criticism of traditional marriage proponents cannot be viewed as hateful, no matter how angrily it might be expressed. It’s a rigged heads-we-win, tails-you-lose game,” he said.
Chick-fil-A appears to have taken itself off the soapbox, at least for now, with a corporate statement that said: “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent owner/operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”