Conservative Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, on a trip to Russia last week, praised President Vladimir Putin and the nation’s so-called gay propaganda law for “protecting Russian young people” and criticized LGBT-accepting U.S. churches as well as President Obama.
“I very much appreciate that President Putin is protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda,” Graham told Russian newspaper Moskoviskij Komsomolets, according to a translation by Right Wing Watch. “If only to give them the opportunity to grow up and make a decision for themselves. Again, homosexuals cannot have children, they can take other people’s children.”
Russia’s “propaganda” law, enacted in 2013, prohibits “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations” — basically, anything that portrays LGBT people in a positive light or endorses LGBT equality — in venues accessible to minors.
Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which was founded by his father, also told the paper that while he considers Obama “a very nice person,” he thinks the U.S. president is “taking a stand against God.”
“He supports and promotes policies that contradict the teachings of God,” Graham said. “As a Christian I believe that abortion is murder, he supports it. Homosexuality and same-sex marriage — those are sins against God, and the president is promoting them. I’m not against homosexuals as people. But God commanded that marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
During his Russian sojourn, Graham met with Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, and decried trends in the U.S. “Many churches in America have started to support homosexuality,” Graham told Kirill, according to another Russian paper translated by Right Wing Watch. “This is terrible, it’s a sin, and it’s against God.”
Graham also reportedly told the patriarch that Obama “promotes atheism” and “does not have a Christian worldview.” Putin, he said, “is protecting traditional Christianity.”
Now Graham will seek to influence the U.S. political process with a 50-state tour beginning in January. He will not endorse any candidate but will “ask Christians to pray for the country, vote for people who hold biblical values and run for public office at every level,” according to a press release on his group’s website. His first stop will be in Des Moines January 5, about a month before Iowa holds its presidential caucus. He has other January and February stops scheduled in early primary states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina.