Today President Trump—who lost the popular vote by 2,864,974 votes, and has the lowest approval rating of any president in the history of modern polling—declared that flags will be flown at half-staff today at all public buildings (including those in Oregon) in honor of Rev. Billy Graham.
Presidential Proclamation on the Death of Billy Graham
As a mark of respect for the memory of Reverend Billy Graham, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that on the day of his interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half‑staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day.
While flying our flag at half-staff for the victims and survivors of the recent Parkland school massacre is certainly a worthy enough reason, choosing Rev. Billy Graham for such an honor is extremely problematic. Graham was instrumental in not only popularizing Southern Baptist evangelism, but tying it to politics (helping give birth to today's religious right). He was also a spiritual adviser to several presidents including Richard Nixon, and while many fawning obituaries were written in the reverend's honor, they made only passing reference to Graham's dark side—in particular his homophobia and bigotry.
In 1993, he suggested that AIDS was a punishment from God before being forced to walk back the statement after public outcry. He considered homosexuality to be "a sinister form of perversion" and that it could be cured by devoting oneself to Jesus Christ. And while it's suspected that Graham's son, Franklin—who's even more homophobic than his father—was behind it, in 2012 the evangelist took out a full page ad in North Carolina newspapers to convince readers to vote against same-sex marriage.
"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Graham wrote in an advertisement that will appear in 14 newspapers over the weekend, according to the Associated Press. "The Bible is clear — God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8."
And while Graham was once again forced to later apologize for his comments, his antisemitism was on national display after being caught declaring on the 1972 Nixon tapes that Jews ran the national media. From the New York Times:
In the conversation with President Nixon, the evangelist complained about what he saw as Jewish domination of the news media.
''You believe that?'' Nixon asked in response.
''Yes, sir,'' Mr. Graham said.
''Oh, boy. So do I,'' Nixon said. ''I can't ever say that, but I believe it.''
''No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,'' Mr. Graham said.
Later in the conversation, when Nixon raised the subject of Jewish influence in Hollywood and the news media, Mr. Graham said, ''A lot of Jews are great friends of mine.''
''They swarm around me and are friendly to me,'' Mr. Graham said, ''because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.''
Nixon replied, ''You must not let them know.''
I can only imagine Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's ire when she, along with the rest of America's governors, were ordered by Trump to fly the American flag today at half-staff. Graham was an instrumental figure in how conservative, bigoted Christianity has infected American politics, which has led to our current, divisive state of affairs. In no way does he deserve to be honored.