FFRF denounced various governmental efforts to venerate the late Billy Graham.
A federal order instructed that flags be lowered to half-staff on March 2, just after Graham was “lain in honor” in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
And North Carolina is proceeding with a 2015 request to place a statue of Graham in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol.
While it would be fitting for evangelical Christian organizations to honor Graham, it is not appropriate for our federal and state governments to do so.
Despite supporters’ insistence that Graham is a universally beloved figure, he had a checkered history, including anti-Semitism, disdain for atheists and other alienating and divisive views. Furthermore, he was a religious figure who had no redeeming secular achievements (unlike personalities such as Martin Luther King Jr.).
The decision to lower flags to half-mast in honor of Billy Graham follows on the heels of Graham receiving a rare tribute of “lying in honor” in the Capitol rotunda, which FFRF also condemned. Only 31 persons previously have lain in honor in the U.S. Capitol since it was completed in 1824, 11 of them presidents and all the others known for their direct and incontrovertible service to the nation. In Rosa Parks’ case, for instance, it was for her iconic role in the civil rights movement. Graham, on the other hand, worked to narrow civil rights.
Graham consistently found himself on the wrong side of history, opposing gay rights and marriage equality and retracting anti-Semitic statements only when it became necessary to do so.
The Billy Graham Evangelical Association once said that Vladimir Putin was “more right” on LGBTQ rights than then-President Obama. Graham, in his 90s, wrote a full-page ad appearing in several North Carolina newspapers “to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment” in May 2012, which passed, banning gay marriage until later nullified. He belonged to a denomination that refused to ordain women. The “Billy Graham” rule directing a man to not be alone with a woman other than his wife continues to influence evangelicals, including Vice President Mike Pence, isolating career women in the process.
Billy Graham stood against much of what makes this country noble. He is not worthy of governmental praise or honors.