In another provocative comment aimed at Barack Obama, evangelist Franklin Graham on Thursday accused the president of having “shaken his fist” at God by changing his position on same-sex marriage.
“It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more,” Graham said in a prepared statement. “This is a sad day for America. May God help us.”
On Tuesday, North Carolina became the 31st state to ratify a constitutional amendment to block same-sex marriage.
The next day, amid online clamor to move the Democratic National Convention from Charlotte, the president changed his longstanding position against same-sex unions.
“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead an affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC News.
He said he had changed his mind after having talked with his family and friends.
But Graham said God created and defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
It “should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition.”
The Rev. Murdoch Smith, pastor of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, challenged Graham’s view, saying “I am always suspect when someone says that they know the mind of God.”
“President Obama stated that his position was evolving because he was open to what all sides had to say on marriage equality,” Smith said Thursday. “That openness … brought him to the conclusion that God blesses all who commit to one another in his presence.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he found Obama’s change of heart “deeply saddening.”
“Unfortunately, President Obama’s words …are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage,” Dolan said in a prepared statement. “I pray for the president every day, and will continue to pray that he and his administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Steve Kreuger, national director of Catholic Democrats, applauded Obama’s move.
“Invoking both faith and reason through his lived experience, he joined his Catholic brothers and sisters in leading support for marriage equality, which surveys show that rank-and-file Catholics support more than other Christian religious groups,” Kreuger said.
Franklin Graham, who now runs his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has criticized the president on spiritual matters before.
In a February interview on MSNBC, Graham questioned whether Obama is a Christian, adding that “Islam has gotten a free pass” under the current administration. He was heavily criticized, particularly by African-American ministers, and later apologized.
When running for the U.S. Senate and in his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said he opposed same-sex marriage, partly on religious reasons, partly “because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” he said in the Wednesday interview.
Obama’s presumptive challenger for the White House, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, says he opposes same-sex marriage and favors an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to forbid it. Massachusetts is one of eight states that allows such unions.
N.C voters passed the amendment with 61 percent approval. The vote followed an emotional campaign in which both sides drew heavily from churches.
Both Billy and Franklin Graham endorsed the amendment, and the evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads and TV spots, urging passage.