When famous evangelist Billy Graham passed away on Feb. 21, he became only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol building.
Congress’s decision to extend this honor to an evangelist sparked some criticism.
“We respect the fact that many people revere Billy Graham because he brought them deep spiritual meaning and inspiration,” Americans United stated in a Feb. 28 press release. “However, Graham also did things that are greatly troubling. For example, he made derogatory statements about Jews, African Americans and LGBTQ Americans. The hurt and harm caused by those statements cannot be forgotten even though he may have later offered apologies.”
Americans United noted that unlike the three private citizens such as civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, who was granted the same honor, Graham’s work only reached a group of people with a specific interpretation of Christianity. The government, AU said, should not honor someone whose main achievement was evangelizing.
“Our position is that Graham should not lie in honor. We don’t say this to criticize a man who has died, but because the question of who should receive this rare honor warrants public discussion,” the statement read. “Such a high government honor for someone solely for his work spreading an interpretation of one faith offends the spirit of our First Amendment’s guarantee that government will not take actions that endorse or promote religion.”