Billy Graham is known for being the spiritual advisor to multiple presidents from Harry S. Truman all the way to George W. Bush. Graham passed away last week at the age of 99. Graham’s ministry spanned more than six decades, and his evangelical “crusades,” as he called them for most of his career, touched every corner of the world.
He proclaimed his message of salvation through repentance and commitment to Jesus in the poorest of Third World nations and the wealthiest corners of this world. He was an accomplished showman with a down-to-earth theology. He preached with a burning sincerity, although he generally avoided the exaggerated theatrics of the stereotypical Bible revivalists of an earlier era.
But of course, with every kind deed, someone has to take issue with the way he is being honored. This time its Atheists and LGBT activists who were triggered. So they sent a letter to whine and moan saying the body of the late Rev. Billy Graham should not lie in state at the U.S. Capitol rotunda because it alienates non-religious people, religious minorities, and those communities whose civil rights he opposed.
In addition to the above points, the letter also states that allowing Graham to lie in honor would set a dangerous precedent for government entanglement with religious matters.
No matter what religion you are, or aren’t, Graham was indeed a legend, and millions around the world will miss him. Plus since he was the presidential spiritual advisor from Harry Truman all the way to George W. Bush, he deserves to be honored in our nation’s capital. So here is thought for the signers of this ridiculous letter, don’t take everything to serious. Do like most of us God believing people do. We, like yourselves, also don’t enjoy seeing people from the other side of the political spectrum honored, so we tune out and go read a book. Problem solved!
“Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan:
The nine undersigned civil rights and religious freedom organizations write to express our deep
concern about your announced plan to display the remains of Reverend Billy Graham in the
Rotunda of the US Capitol Building on February 28th through March 1st. We, like millions of
Americans across the nation, feel that display of remains in the Capitol Rotunda, also known as
lying in honor, should be reserved only for those remarkable citizens who have displayed the
highest devotion to American ideals of freedom, equality, and liberty. Since our nation’s
founding, only three Americans have been so honored, and unlike those heroic individuals,
Reverend Billy Graham is a controversial and divisive figure. We respectfully urge you to
withdraw this misguided plan.
As advocates for civil rights and religious liberty, we are concerned that lying Reverend Graham
in honor would needlessly alienate non-religious people, religious minorities, and those
communities whose civil rights he opposed and would set a dangerous precedent for
government entanglement with religious matters.
Reverend Billy Graham clearly played an important leadership role in the establishment and rise
to prominence of the American evangelical movement. Yet, as Americans, we have never given
state honors to religious leaders for the advancement or pursuit of their religious vocations.
Indeed, to do so would conflict with the very spirit of our Constitution, which prohibits both the
establishment of religion and religious requirements for any US office or public trust.
Instead, display of remains in the Capitol Rotunda has been reserved for eminent political
leaders, military leaders, unknown soldiers who perished in war, and just three individuals who
have been laid in honor for their remarkable bravery. These latter three were civil rights leader
Rosa Parks, who fought to end segregation, and Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and
Detective John Gibson, who died in defense of the Capitol.
While some honor Reverend Graham as an important figure in the civil rights movement, others
point to his conflictual relationship with leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his failure to
consistently stand against segregation. Moreover, Reverend Graham is known for his stance
against equal rights for women, admonishing women to be wives, mothers, and homemakers
rather than taking a broader role in society. Reverend Graham strongly opposed equal rights for
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, taking a leadership role in supporting
constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. Finally, Reverend Graham made a
number of troubling statements about members of the Jewish faith and denigrated atheists and
other non-religious Americans.
Leadership with such a mixed record on civil rights should not be honored in a building that
represents all Americans. While we understand that Reverend Graham is a hero to many, we
strongly urge you to reconsider this plan.
American Humanist Association
Center for Inquiry
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
Pride at Work
Secular Coalition for America”