Franklin Graham's new ally against gays

Mar. 22, 2014 @ 08:49 AM

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer

So Franklin Graham thinks America would be better off if our president cracked down on homosexuals the way Russian President Vladimir Putin has.

"In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues," Graham said in the March issue of Decision, a magazine published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which Franklin Graham leads.

Added an admiring Graham: "He has taken a stand to protect his nation's children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda. Our president and attorney general have turned their back on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration's lead. This is shameful."

The comments are so startling, coming from a prominent voice on spirituality, that the charitable among us might conclude that Graham doesn't understand exactly what's getting his stamp of approval. Let's review:

Last June, the Russian parliament passed a federal law banning the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors. The law was similar to several regional laws already in the books, each forbidding propaganda but leaving vague what that might be. The federal law's simple definition: Propaganda is the "distribution of information" that might give minors "non-traditional" ideas about sexuality and relationships.

How are the laws doing? Fairly well, if the goal is to strike fear into homosexuals and those who support them. Prosecutions under the regional laws have included performers and artists who merely voice support of the LGBT community. One person in St. Petersburg was arrested for simply holding up a sign saying "Gay is Normal."

The federal law has gone even further in chilling such speech, because the "propaganda" it forbids includes any information published on the Internet, even it's not intended for children's consumption. Surely, Franklin Graham doesn't applaud such government suppression of speech, right?

The regional propaganda laws, copied and celebrated by Putin, have had another, predictable consequence. They've marked gays and lesbians as targets of harassment and violence, to which the police often fail to respond, according to human rights groups and advocates in Russia. That governmental ambivalence emboldens the anti-gay, which inevitably leads to crimes such as the brutal sexual assault and murder of a 23-year-old man in Volgograd last year.

It's possible that Graham doesn't know about all this, or maybe he's buying into Putin's own propaganda about the laws doing no harm at all. Maybe Graham doesn't care either way, so long as his words scare up more donations to the family ministry.

It's curious that Graham and others continue to spend so much energy on homosexuality -- an act that doesn't even rise to the level of a commandment -- while being comparatively quiet about those that do. It's unfortunate the younger Graham's brand of Christianity, one that emphasizes the wrong over the right, has supplanted the message of love and forgiveness that Billy Graham preached for so many years.

Mostly, it's troubling. While the U.S. is moving ever further from the kind of laws Franklin Graham daydreams about, his words still carry some weight. They give affirmation to those who might discriminate, and they give voice to those who hate, all in the name of God's love.