Franklin Graham Hails Trump CPAC Speech As Evangelicals Say They're Losing Influence

Evangelist Franklin Graham praised former President Donald Trump's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday, a move that comes as a majority of evangelicals believe they are losing influence under President Joe Biden.

"Former President Donald J. Trump spoke at @CPAC today & reminded America of the importance of a strong defense, borders, & economy," Graham tweeted. "We pray that our nation will move forward; but most importantly, we pray that our nation will turn to God."

Franklin Graham—son of late prominent evangelical pastor Billy Graham—is president and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. Graham fervently stood by Trump throughout his presidency, as the real estate mogul counted white evangelical Christians among his most ardent supporters.

Former President Donald J. Trump spoke at @CPAC today & reminded America of the importance of a strong defense, borders, & economy. We pray that our nation will move forward; but most importantly, we pray that our nation will turn to God.

— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 1, 2021

As such, Biden's win did not inspire much optimism among the deeply conservative demographic. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January found 72 percent of white evangelicals, as well as 65 percent of Republicans, believed evangelical Christians will lose influence under Biden's administration.

Graham has not relented on rallying his wide following behind the former president. In December 2020, the evangelist floated Trump's baseless claim over the presidential election being "rigged or stolen."

Graham even continued advocating for Trump following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, criticizing the ensuing impeachment trial over the former president's role in inciting the attack. Trump was acquitted in the historic second impeachment proceedings.

In the aftermath of the Capitol riots, a petition by evangelical leaders condemning "the role Christian Nationalism played in the violent, racist, anti-American insurrection" garnered over 2,000 signatures.

While the open letter stopped short of blaming the former president for the riots, it mentioned the sight of "flags claiming Trump's name, calling for violence, and raising the name of Jesus."

The evangelical signatories also appeared to distance themselves from certain segments of Trump's vociferous base by stating: "Just as it was tragically inconsistent for Christians in the 20th Century to support the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi ideology, it is unthinkable for Christians to support the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, QAnon, 3 Percenters, America Firsters, and similar groups."

Trump's first impeachment, which revolved around allegations of inviting foreign interference in the U.S. elections, led Christianity Today—an evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham—to publish a scathing December 2019 editorial calling the then-sitting president's morals into question.

"To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve," wrote editor-in-chief Mark Galli. "Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior."

Franklin Graham called the editorial a "partisan attack," claiming Christianity Today has "moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism."

Following Trump's exit, Joe Biden's administration could potentially find some common ground with white evangelical groups. A January poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found white evangelical Protestants were likely to support certain compassion-based immigration policies.

The PRRI reported 58 percent of white evangelical Protestants supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as well as 52 percent favoring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. Sixty-three percent of white evangelical protestants opposed family separation at the U.S. border, one of many infamous policies that have come to define Trump's presidency.

However, the poll found some Trump-era stances to be alive and well among white evangelicals. The majority favored legislation to prevent refugees from entering the U.S., a ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Franklin Graham addresses RNC
Evangelist Franklin Graham addresses the Republican National Convention in a pre-recorded speech at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, in Washington, DC, on August 27, 2020. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images