The Rev. Franklin Graham told thousands of Spokane evangelicals to run for office Thursday, saying America was in spiritual trouble.
Spokane, one of several stops on Graham’s Decision America tour across the Pacific Northwest, was the tour’s most well-attended event so far, with nearly 15,000 people gathering on blankets and in lawn chairs at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, according to event organizers. Graham, the son of conservative evangelist Billy Graham who died at the age of 99 in February, was also accompanied by Christian singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp.
Graham has led the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association since 2001, drawing a sizable following across the country. He has also gained widespread attention for controversial comments he has made on politics and religion. After 9/11, he called Islam a “very wicked and evil religion,” and was a proponent of the so called “birther” conspiracy theory, which falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. While speaking to the crowd Thursday, Graham also voiced his opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
During a news event before going on stage, Graham said he tries to stay out of politics by not campaigning for candidates, but speaks out on moral issues. He also addressed his comments about current political leaders, saying that, while he ordinarily doesn’t weigh in on individuals, he felt that President Donald Trump had been extremely supportive of religious freedoms.
“This administration has seriously supported religious liberties, more than any president I remember, and I’m 66,” he said.
While speaking to the crowd, Graham named Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, as well as national political leaders, asking attendees to pray for them. He also told the crowd to run for office themselves, or if they were unable, to support Christian candidates.
He criticized secularism in schools and government, saying that the country needs Christian political activists that have the support of their church and other Christians. He also said that secular institutions weren’t far from communism.
“Secularism and communism are two godless forms of government,” Graham said. “Many progressives champion this, ‘We’re secular.’ Is our country getting better for it? No. That’s why we need to pray for our country.”
He said if Christians don’t get involved in public life, the opportunities they had when they were growing up may not exist when their children come of age.
America is going through a period of spiritual difficulty, he said, and no political party has the power to restore it. “Republicans can’t fix it. Democrats can’t fix it. Only God can fix it,” he said.