William Franklin Graham III is a Christian evangelist and missionary. He was born in 1952 in North Carolina, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham. As a teenager, he was expelled from a private school in the state of New York, and later from LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas, for keeping a female classmate out past curfew. He has described how, aged 22 and on a trip to the Middle East in 1974, he underwent a conversion experience, after which he says he committed himself fully to Jesus Christ.
In 1974, Graham joined an international Christian relief organisation, Samaritan’s Purse, which works in countries throughout the world, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. In 1979 he became president of Samaritan’s Purse, and later chief executive, a post he still holds. He was ordained in 1982 by the Grace Community Church in Tempe, Arizona, and in 1989 began preaching with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He became chief executive of the association in 2000, and president in 2002, and still holds both posts. In 2001, Graham gave the opening prayer at the inauguration of George W Bush. He also spoke at the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017.
In 2015, a North Carolina newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, reported that Graham was receiving annual salaries of about $880,000, comprising $622,000 from Samaritan’s Purse and $258,000 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This compared with salaries of between $350,000 and $450,000 for the chief executives of America’s top 50 charities.
- Graham has been criticised many times for what have been perceived as anti-Muslim comments. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he described Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion”. In a Time magazine interview in 2010, Graham was reported as saying Islam was “a religion of hatred. It’s a religion of war.” In 2010, the Pentagon withdrew his invitation to speak at a National Day of Prayer event, after objections from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In 2011, he attacked the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming it had infiltrated “every level” of the US government.
- In 2010, Graham said in a CNN interview that Barack Obama’s “problem” was that he had been born a Muslim. He went on to acknowledge in the same interview that the president had renounced Islam and had accepted Christianity. But two years later, in an interview with ABC, he said that although Obama was “a fine man”, he could not know if the president was a Christian in his heart. He later apologised to Obama, saying: “I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr Obama. The president has said he is a Christian and I accept that.”
- Gay rights. In 2012, Graham criticised Obama for supporting same-sex marriage, saying that the president had “shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage”. He later defended Vladimir Putin’s gay propaganda law, praising him for “protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda”.
- Trump. In 2011, Graham described Donald Trump, who had expressed interest in the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election, as his preferred candidate. In November 2016, he told the Washington Post that God had played a role in Trump’s successful election campaign.
VISIT TO BLACKPOOL
There have been protests over a planned visit by Graham to ”The Festival of Hope” in Blackpool , Lancashire, over the weekend of 22-23 September, 2018. The event has been organised by 200 churches in Lancashire from many denominations including the Church of England. Eight thousand local people signed a petition against the visit and Christians in Blackpool are taking part in a peaceful protest in the town. The Muslim Council of Britain has called on the government to refuse Graham a visa on the grounds that comments he has made amount to Islamophobia and homophobia. Three MPs have also called for the visit to be cancelled.