Cancel culture has come for Franklin Graham, the president of the global Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse, which is best known for sending shoeboxes with Christmas presents to children in the Global South. Graham, an evangelist and the son of the Reverend Billy Graham, has vocally supported former President Donald Trump. A left-leaning Christian group has garnered more than 20,000 signatures on a petition demanding his ouster from Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
“As long as Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association stand by Franklin Graham, it must be said that these once-vaunted organizations have forgotten their original Christian missions, abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are complicit in the spread of dishonest, discredited election conspiracy theories and the deadly, unpatriotic, white-nationalist terrorism at the U.S. Capitol incited by those lies,” reads the petition, sponsored by the left-leaning Christian group Faithful America.
“Our faith in Jesus Christ demands that we do better than this. Your fellow Christians from across the country call on you to fire Franklin Graham, or to resign from the Board in individual protest,” the petition demands. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had garnered 21,146 signatures.
The petition condemns Graham for his temporary support of Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 election “in a landslide” but Democrats stole the election from him. Although Graham did briefly support Trump’s claim, he later accepted Joe Biden’s win and called on Christians across America to pray for Biden, whom he called the “president-elect.”
The division in our country is as great as any time since the Civil War. I am calling on Christians to unite our hearts…
In launching the petition on January 15, Faithful America declared that “Franklin Graham is still doing everything he can to support Trump’s deadly presidency, recently tweeting, ‘When he says this election was rigged or stolen, I tend to believe him.’” The left-leaning group did not acknowledge that Graham had referred to Biden as the “president-elect” before January 15.
Faithful America claimed that Trump’s election rhetoric had incited the Capitol riot, which the organization characterized as an “insurrection.” While Trump’s rhetoric was arguably dangerous, neither the president nor Graham urged supporters to break into the Capitol or engage in an “insurrection.”
“Even Trump’s incitement of insurrection has not shaken Graham’s idolatry. On January 14, Graham literally compared Trump to Jesus, accusing Republicans who voted for impeachment of accepting ‘thirty pieces of silver’ to betray him,” Faithful America argued. “As for the violence that left five dead, the court evangelical simply shrugged it off: ‘We knew he had flaws when he ran for office in 2016.’ There is absolutely nothing Christian about that.”
“With blasphemous preachers like Graham blessing Trump’s Big Lie and pretending ‘antifa’ was behind the attack, it’s no wonder the failed coup featured crosses and ‘Jesus saves’ banners and flags. Graham and the religious right must be held accountable for their deadly dishonesty,” the group added.
At that point, Faithful America turned to Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA.
Graham gets away with his hatred and conspiracy-theories by hiding behind the humanitarian work of Samaritan’s Purse and his late father’s name. It’s time for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) to realize that by propping up Franklin’s unchristian extremism, they are abandoning their Gospel missions, undermining democracy, and helping incite white-nationalist sedition.
Graham publicly lamented the Capitol riot, saying he was “deeply saddened” by it. He called on “Christians to unite our hearts together in prayer for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and for the leadership in both parties.” He called January 6 “a low point” in Trump’s presidency, but he would not disavow Trump’s positive platform and policies.
Many on the Left may wish Graham had repudiated Trump, his platform, and his policies after January 6, but Graham’s support for Trump does not entail support for “unchristian extremism” or complicity in Capitol riots. Graham was correct to note Trump’s many accomplishments while president, including tax cuts, Middle East peace deals, a firm defense of religious freedom, criminal justice reform, and his powerful defense of the unborn against abortion.
While Graham should not have compared Republicans who voted for impeachment to Judas Iscariot, his political stances do not suggest a Trump “idolatry.” Nor do they implicate him in “white-nationalist terrorism,” a rather hyperbolic and debatable characterization of the Capitol riot. Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA certainly have not “abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ” by keeping Graham as their president.
Many on the Left have demonized conservative Christians for upholding biblical morality, especially when it comes to defining marriage as between one man and one woman. LGBT activists, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the New York City Council condemned Samaritan’s Purse for its views on sexuality and moved against its mobile hospital, set up to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak in the city.
This Faithful America petition is not the first attack on Franklin Graham and it won’t be the last. While Graham may have gone overboard in defending Trump, this is no reason for Samaritan’s Purse or the BGEA to even consider ousting him. Both organizations should dismiss this politically-motivated attack.
Neither Samaritan’s Purse nor the BGEA responded to PJ Media’s requests for comment by press time.
Update 6:50 p.m.:
Paul Saber, who serves on the board of directors for Samaritan’s Purse and the BGEA, told McClatchy News that Faithful America “fabricated this lie that [Graham] incited violence at the Capitol.”
“The Boards of Directors for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have expressed that they fully support Franklin Graham and are more than satisfied with the job he has done and is doing in leading these ministries,” Saber said. “Franklin Graham was not in Washington, D.C., and he did not encourage people to go to the Capitol on January 6.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.