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Franklin Graham to Buttigieg: Homosexuality 'sin' to be 'repentant of' not 'flaunted'

While Graham’s homosexuality condemnation is not new, polling shows that a majority of white evangelical Christians support LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws.
Image: Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 16, 2019.
Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 16.Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters file

The evangelical preacher Franklin Graham has taken aim at presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a self-described gay Christian.

In three tweets Wednesday that mention Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Graham stated that the Bible defines homosexuality as “something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian Jon Meacham called Graham's comments "extreme" on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday.

"Given where the country is on these issues, this is no longer a mainstream view," Meacham said.

The Buttigieg campaign declined to respond to a request for comment, and Buttigieg did not address Graham's comments on the campaign trail. But the campaign did point some reporters to comments Buttigieg, 37, made this week in response to criticism from Richard Grenell, the openly gay U.S. ambassador to Germany: "I'm not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see it, and I'm not going to take it."

Buttigieg has, however, criticized Vice President Mike Pence's record on LGBTQ issues.

“I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” Buttigieg said in a speech on April 7 to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

The day after his speech, Buttigieg reprised his critique of Pence.

“Just because you are LGBTQ doesn't mean it's OK to discriminate against you,” he told reporters in Las Vegas. “I think most people get that, I think most Christians get that, and it's time for us to move on toward a more inclusive and more humane vision of faith than what this vice president represent."

While Graham once spoke on behalf of a unified evangelical voting bloc, today the situation is complicated by shifting attitudes toward homosexuality that are segmented by political party and age. A poll conducted this year by the Public Religion Research Institute found that majorities of every religious denomination support extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people. A majority — 54 percent — of white evangelical protestants support extending such protections.

This religious group’s attitudes “are highly structured by party affiliation,” the poll found. The poll found that 47 percent of white evangelical Republicans support LGBTQ protections, compared to 58 percent of white evangelical independents and 71 percent of white evangelical Democrats. If Graham speaks for any group, it is perhaps for the slender majority of Republican-identified white evangelical Christians who oppose LGBTQ rights.

NBC News / NBC News

"The Bible cannot be used as a weapon to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community," the Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, interim moderator of the global LGBTQ-inclusive Metropolitan Community Churches, told NBC News. "Biblical scholarship over the last decades exposed how some use scripture to justify hatred towards LGBTQ persons. God's grace and the unconditional love in Christ is offered to everyone."

Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, was a vocal critic of then-President Bill Clinton’s sexual improprieties and wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Clinton’s Sins Aren’t Private” in 1998. But after President Donald Trump was accused of having had an illicit affair with adult film actor Stormy Daniels, Graham told The Associated Press it’s “nobody’s business.”