On October 6 followers of evangelist Franklin Graham gathered by the thousands at the Statehouse for a prayer rally. Supporters who arrived on the south side of the Capitol were greeted by counterdemonstrators holding a rainbow banner with the message “Stop the Hate!”
“We’re here to say that we are human beings,” said Shannon Glatz. “We deserve love, we deserve equal rights, and their hate is not going to be tolerated.”
Graham’s rhetoric at the prayer rally was non-partisan on the surface. But he opposes gay marriage and warned Christians to keep LGBT people away from their children and churches. He also supports Donald Trump’s proposal to end Muslim immigration. Trump supporters were conspicuous in the crowd.
Franklin Graham’s father, the evangelist Billy Graham, never allied himself with the religious right. “I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form,” he said in 1981. “It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”
“I liked him,” said Jamie Tuttle from Cleveland. “But his son became more fire and brimstone.”
The prayer rally was one of the last stops in Franklin Graham’s 50-state Decision America 2016 tour. Supporters in the crowd handed out tiny American flags and religious tracts.
“I believe that Franklin Graham is spreading a negative message that it’s OK to hate gays and transgenders and bisexuals,” said Alex Sawyers. “I’m not the most religious person in the world, but the God I believe in is not like that.”
“Franklin Graham has some good ministries and does some good work, but he also has some very bad ideas that tend to spread hate and violence toward my community,” said Bobbi Ullinger from Kent. “We’re here in love, to try to open people’s eyes.”