Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, is coming to the south steps of the Rhode Island State House on August 31 at noon, to preach his message of anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islam, pro-theocracy intolerance. Graham is visiting Rhode Island as part of a 50-state tour. “I’m going to every state in our country,” says Graham on his website, “to challenge Christians to live out their faith at home, in public and at the ballot box—and I will share the Gospel.”
Graham’s gospel includes the demonization of those who don’t subscribe to his narrow, biblical world view. Graham “and his pals,” writes Rob Boston, director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “lost the marriage equality case at the U.S. Supreme Court, but they didn’t let that slow them down. Almost immediately, they started attacking the transgender community.”
Graham’s tour is timed to have maximum impact on the coming presidential election, even as he tries to pretend that his message somehow transcends politics. “I am running a campaign, but I am running a campaign for God,” says Graham on his 50-state tour website. His message isn’t one of unity and peace, it’s one built on the familiar right-wing tropes of hate and fear.
“The secularists, the progressives, many of these people, most of them are people that would be atheistic, and we have taken God out of our country,” said Graham during his Facebook live prayer event, scheduled before the start of the Republican National Convention, “We have taken Him out of our nation; we have taken Him out of our government. We have taken Him out of the education system, and our country is beginning to implode. We’re on the precipice of anarchy.”
Graham reserves his most vile verbal venom for members of the LGBTQ community. “I want the school boards of America in the hands of evangelical Christians within the next four to six years,” said Graham to Fox News’ Todd Starnes, “And it can happen and that will have a huge impact because so many school districts now are controlled by wicked, evil people, and the gays and lesbians, and I keep bringing their name up, but they are at the forefront of this attack against Christianity in America.”
Franklin went to Russia in 2015 to praise “President Vladimir Putin’s protection of ‘traditional Christianity,’ including the passage of the 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law that effectively criminalizes pro-gay-rights speech and advocacy.”
While in Russia, Graham didn’t miss his chance to put down the country of his birth. “[T]he situation in the US regarding religion is in decline. Secularism, which is almost no different from communism, is an atheistic movement. Our country is becoming more and more secular, more atheist, taking God out of government, taking God out of schools. We are witnessing America losing many religious freedoms. In your country over the past 30 years, we have seen positive changes. But over this same period of time in the US, the changes have been negative.”
If you’re not convinced that Franklin Graham is a monster, consider that he called the “first national monument to the gay rights movement near the site of the Stonewall protests in New York City” an “Unbelievable… monument to sin,” adding, “It’s no surprise that the three officials who represent the area and support the monument are all openly gay.”
Consider that Graham told a capacity crowd in Alabama that the idea of separating church and state is “just a lie that the enemy uses to try to keep your mouth shut.”
Consider that he lead the effort to boycott Girl Scout cookies because of the group’s acceptance of lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender youth, saying, he “won’t be buying any Girl Scout cookies this year.”
Then there’s Graham’s anti-Islam rants, a featured part of his public comments and sermons since 9/11. In the aftermath of the attacks, writes William Alberts in Counterpunch, Graham called Islam a “very wicked and evil religion.” In the same Counterpunch piece Alberts wrote:
Rev. Graham’s glorification of his brand of Christianity depends on him condemning Islam as a “violent form of faith,” which led him to do violence to Islam with this glaring lie: “‘Nowhere in its history gives proof of peace (italics added).’” He continued, “‘Islam itself has not changed at all in 1500 years . . . It is the same. It is a religion of war.’” He cited the Islamic State, the Taliban and Boko Haram, and concluded, “This is Islam. It has not been hijacked by radicals. This is the faith, this is the religion. It is what it is. It speaks for itself.”
In Rhode Island, the LGBTQ and Muslim communities have united against hate and violence, especially in the wake of the Orlando shootings. When a mosque was vandalized in North Kingstown, members of the LGBTQ community attended an interfaith vigil in support.
Franklin Graham is visiting a state that was founded on principles diametrically opposed to his brand of intolerance, fear and stupidity. I am confident he will not find fertile ground for his bigotry in the state founded by Roger Williams.