The Rev. Franklin Graham brought thousands of Georgians to the state Capitol’s Liberty Plaza on Wednesday, Feb. 10, with a call for living according to the Christian Bible and with criticism of same-sex marriage, transgender rights and abortion.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Southeast Region office in Buckhead quickly responded by decrying the remarks by the son of evangelist Billy Graham.
“While Mr. Graham is entitled to express his opinion on same-sex marriage and transgender individuals, it is a shame that he uses his bully pulpit to condemn and dehumanize those who are different from him,” ADL Southeast Regional Director Mark Moskowitz said in a statement.
Graham’s Decision America Tour stop provided support for at least eight bills in the General Assembly that the sponsors say would protect religious freedom but that opponents say would legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. The Graham rally was held a day after Georgia Equality gathered critics of those bills, including at least 10 rabbis and SOJOURN leadership, on the same plaza.
The central issue motivating the legislation is same-sex marriage, legalized by the Supreme Court last June and labeled by Graham as a “great sin” on Wednesday.
“We have a problem, and that problem is called sin,” Graham told a crowd that he said totaled about 7,000 people. He reported that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said it was the largest crowd ever seen at the plaza.
Graham also criticized increasing awareness of and support for transgender people.
After calling for more Christians to run for public office, including local government, Graham cited new Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts as an example of people who get elected when Christians stay away. He said her focus is “the gay/lesbian agenda, trying to get transgenders into the bathrooms.”
“That’s wicked, and that’s evil,” Graham said about efforts to let transgender people choose whether to use the men’s room or women’s room. “We don’t need men and predators going into women’s bathrooms.”
The ADL, however, insisted that Graham was calling transgender people wicked. Moskowitz criticized that statement, as well as Graham’s support for legislation that purports to protect religious rights already guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
“In America’s public marketplace, we serve everyone regardless of who they are or where they are from. The only reason why one would oppose civil rights safeguards in the religious freedom bill is to ensure that businesses can discrimination against the LGBT community,” Moskowitz said in the ADL statement. “The First Amendment guarantees the right of clergy to marry who they want. And federal and local anti-discrimination laws already allow religious institutions to limit their services and facilities to people of their faith.”
He compared state-level resistance to LBGT rights to state opposition to the civil rights movement.
“Regrettably, we are seeing history repeat itself,” Moskowitz said. “During desegregation, certain white-owned businesses made the same religious freedom arguments to refuse service to African-Americans. Those arguments were rejected then, and they should be rejected now.”