Billy Graham died a couple weeks ago on February 21st, and the evangelical minister's body was lain with honor in the U.S. capitol a week later, on February 28th. Graham was only the fourth private citizen in American history to be given this (undeserved) honor. This honor is usually bestowed upon military officers or politicians.
Graham's fanatical fans are trying to further up the ante by petitioning for a national holiday in Graham's honor. As of this writing the petition has over 80,000 signatures.
OK, before we go any further, time for a brief rundown of Billy Graham's history and why he absolutely does not deserve this kind of honor.
Graham got his start preaching at The First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois back in the 1940's. After briefly dabbling in a religious radio program he was hired as the first full-time evangelist for the Youth For Christ International organization.
While traveling the country evangelizing, Graham struck national media attention with a series of large-scale revivals in Los Angeles in 1949. He set up tents and created quite the spectacle. As a result, he became a media sensation.
A year later, in 1950, he set up the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, an organization devoted to spreading the Christian gospel. They used every tool they could to accomplish their goal of spreading their faith; TV and radio broadcasts, evangelizing to disaster victims, and the publication of the Decision magazine.
As Graham's power and influence grew, he began mingling in political circles. Starting in 1950, Graham had private audiences with every president from Truman to Obama. And for some of those presidents, he served as primary spiritual adviser.
One of the black marks on Graham's legacy, in fact, comes from his close ties to one of those presidents. It was revealed in 2002, with the declassification of some of the recordings of Nixon's conversations, that there were recordings of Graham making several hateful comments about Jews. Graham said things like it was the Jews "who are putting out the pornographic stuff," and "This stranglehold [the Jews have on the media] has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain."
But Graham did not limit his hateful speech to the Jews, he also said stupid things about women, too. In the December 1970 issue of Ladies' Home Journal, Graham wrote that "Wife, mother, homemaker - this is the appointed destiny of real womanhood." Yes, according to Billy Graham the moment you do anything of note outside your home you are no longer a real woman. Billy wants you to get back in that kitchen and make some sandwiches.
And to make three points on why Graham was not someone to look up to or honor with a national holiday, on more than one occasion he said some pretty hateful things about LGBTQ people. For example, in 1993 at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, Graham said, "Is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not be sure, but I think so.” While he later retracted that specific comment when confronted about it, he still said it out loud to 44,000 people. And in other forums he had already called homosexuality a "sinister form of perversion."
Billy Graham does not deserve a national holiday in his honor. He deluded and deceived millions of people and played a huge role in fostering the growth of the political right-wing evangelical machine that currently is plaguing this country. There is currently a counter-petition that you can find here to voice your opposition to giving Graham a holiday.